Meet the Veteran of the Year [PHIL-OSOPHY]
It was my personal honor to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the 23rd annual Veteran of the Year Award that was presented by the Veterans Transition House in New Bedford to U.S. Army SPC, Christopher E. Azevedo.
Before you read his inspiring story, I’d like to remind you that the VTH helps homeless and at-risk veterans and their families of the SouthCoast by providing shelter and services, with a special focus on healing from substance abuse and learning new life skills. Their goal is the rehabilitation, self-sufficiency and reintegration of each veteran into our community.
Please meet an extraordinary man and veteran, on the weekend that we honor all who served.
Christopher Azevedo was deployed to Desert Storm. He was in the active Navy from 1988-91, Active Navy Reserve until 1993, then honorably discharged in 1994. Mr. Azevedo became a corrections officer and then a firefighter during his small break from military service.
Following 9/11, he felt the calling to serve our country once again. He joined the Army National Guard from 2003-2006 as a small unit operator in the elite 173rd Long-Range Surveillance Detachment, and was active duty with 42nd infantry division that was deployed throughout Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was honorably discharged from the Army National Guard in 2008.
While in the theater of lraq, he ran full-spectrum Combat Operations, and during this deployment survived numerous attacks. However, one direct hit to his vehicle left him with a traumatic brain injury, spine damage and multiple secondary medical issues.
Retraining himself to adjust to college at the age of 45, he began his educational journey. Despite the difficulties resulting from the combat-related brain injury, he perseveres through to this day, maintaining academic honors.
He has decided to dedicate his life to helping veterans and their families and friends, to learning the best possible ways to diagnose and holistically treat a person and their support systems in order to prevent some of the suffering he faced. He one day hopes to become a licensed psychiatrist.
In the spirit of camaraderie, Azevedo does not celebrate his own accomplishments. Instead, he continues to give back to the community through lectures about his personal journey, working tirelessly to network professionals with veterans and their families, friends and loved ones, rendering assistance in navigating services to address/prevent substance abuse, suicide and homelessness.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.