ORLANDO, Fla. – Veterans advocate and life coach Brian Vasquez is this week's News 6 Getting Results Award winner.
Vasquez, who retired in 2011 after a 21-year career in the Army as a tank commander and drill sergeant, is still helping guide those who served.
"I'm doing it now, basically the same way," he laughed. "Just without the drill sergeant hat on."
For many veterans, transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge. Many miss the brotherhood, security and structure of the armed services. PTSD also plays a role for others.
According to a 2011 Pew Research Center study, those who served after the September 11t terrorist attacks have an even tougher time with re-entry. The study showed that 44 percent of veterans reported difficulty readjusting.
Vasquez said he sees it every day while working full-time for Veterans Assembled Electronics in south Orlando. VAE is an electronics trade school that helps disabled veterans establish careers as electronic technicians.
"They're struggling," Vasquez says. "A lot of them get out of the military and they're not used to it. It's like starting all over again."
Vasquez is the school's veterans advocate, helping students navigate military benefits and school requirements. After hours, he also volunteers with several nonprofits dedicated to helping veterans.
Vasquez also studied psychology and earned his life coach certificate. He says he's used both to help over 50 veterans who were homeless to find permanent shelter and another 100 find jobs.
"When I talk to veterans, I try to relate to them as a veteran," said Vasquez, adding that he had a strong support system when he retired, but still struggled with some aspects of civilian life. "I don't try to solve all their problems. I try to refer them to someone who can help them."
Vasquez was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by friend and colleague Tamika Wright.
"He has had a heart of gold for veterans," she said. "I always say he wants to save the world, one veteran at a time."
"My main focus is our military veterans," Vasquez said. "I'm a veteran, and I'm a veteran for life. It's in my blood, and we try to help each other as best we can."