Veterans discuss trauma


Cindy Pantoja / The Advocate

Speaker Shaundi Goins talks about stigmas associated with mental health during the Veterans BBQ held Friday at Fireside Hall.

By Jose Rivera, Advocate Staff

The annual Veteran’s Day event delivered powerful personal stories and messages to fellow veterans dealing with daily struggles and health-related issues stemming from the stresses and traumas of war.

Shaundi Goins, author of “From Homeless to Greatness” and a top student recruiter for major universities, was an invited speaker at the event hosted by Veteran Services in Fireside Hall on Friday.

Goins’s speech tackled mental health and a variety of other problems that veterans from a collection of backgrounds face regularly.

Goins shared his personal experiences from his past as a Navy Seal who was discharged because of his mental disorders and addictions that he had as a young person.

“I had a disease called substance abuse disorder. I was a drug addict,” Goins said.

Many of the veterans present at the event shared the feeling of being traumatized or having the same disorders that Goins was once burdened with.

Fred Nickels, a veteran and student at CCC, said that most veterans are, or feel, left out when it comes to learning. He said that most of the time teachers, staff and other students don’t have the respect for someone who suffers from PTSD.

Nickels served as a combat medic and is now working toward becoming a physician’s assistant. Even though Nickels seems to have a normal life, it’s not like that, he said.

“When working as a medic, during my time serving, my mental health got worse as time passed by. At some point, even the soldiers I was attending started noticing and recommended that I looked for help,” he said.

Earlier this year, Nickels got diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a chronic condition that impairs one’s ability to focus.

Nickel said his life got a little bit easier after being diagnosed, because he was finally able to understand and accept the fact that his world was a little different from others.

“I was almost one of the 22 and I thought about it more than once,” Nichols said referring to the 22 veterans who take their lives on a daily basis.

Alexis Ortiz, a veteran working toward his chemistry degree, said people often don’t recognize the effort soldiers put into making the country a safer place.

“I walk by people and most of them look down on me, almost as if I never existed,” Ortiz said.

“Sometimes it’s hard for soldiers to ask for help from our teachers or classmates because they make us feel like we don’t matter.”

Ortiz said he had to drop a math class because even instructional aides and tutors had trouble helping him overcome his obstacles.

Event organizer and Veteran Program Coordinator TeJae Dunnivant said the most important thing people can take from the event is to let veteran students know that help is always offered at CCC.

Dunnivant also said the main benefit of the event is to educate people about the disabilities or disadvantages that veterans might have once stepping onto a college campus.