Join Everyday Law and President/Founder Lt. Paul Baffico of the Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation, as we discuss veterans advocacy — how Lt. Baffico’s foundation helps Lake County vets, as well as his own history as a Vietnam combat veteran, and his re-entry into civilian life after coming home.
Lieutenant Paul Baffico is the president and founder of Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation which is located at 100 S. Atkinson Road in Grayslake (tel. (847) 986-4622, www.lakevetsfound.org). The Foundation is a hub for Lake County veterans (regardless of their discharge status) and their families for community services and resources to assist them. Baffico is also the author of a book, “Last Mission for a Reluctant Patriot”, which details his military experience in Vietnam and the lasting effects of that war.
Baffico grew up in a supportive family in San Francisco and came of age in the Vietnam era. Though Baffico felt the chaos and turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War, he decided his best option was to finish college early and volunteer for service as the draft made service almost inevitable. Baffico led a communications platoon with the 101st Airborne Division in 1970-71. He flew 206 missions and earned numerous medals. Upon returning home after his service, Baffico saw that returning vets were not welcomed with open arms. Baffico buried feelings of depression and isolation with alcohol, yet he was still able to finish graduate school, start a family and have a very successful corporate career with Sears.
Baffico retired from Sears but within 2 years found that problems with frustration and anger resurfaced and he started seeing civilian counselors to deal with his problems. Because of his military services, it was suggested that he see counselors at the VA(Veterans Affairs). There, Baffico was diagnosed with PTSD and within 1 year Baffico began to feel a difference. He was asked to participate in a peer support program for which he was trained and certified as a peer support partner. The foundation grew out of a government grant to assist veterans outside the VA in Lake County. Baffico was asked to participate as the chairman of the council governing that grant, along with the Lake County Health Department. When the funding for the grant was later cut, Baffico and others felt that the work started through the grant needed to continue through a not-for profit. The Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation has been in existence since 2013.
The Foundation has its headquarters in Grayslake and provides a welcoming space for veterans and their families where they can receive free and confidential services. The front of the headquarter’s building is set up as a comfortable coffee house with free coffee, TV, internet and research facilities. Staff is available to assist and connect veterans and their families with a wide array of services in Lake County. Though the VA has numerous programs and services for veterans, some veterans feel uncomfortable approaching the VA for help. Additionally, the Foundation is willing to serve any veteran regardless of his or her discharge service.
In addition to Baffico’s work with the Foundation and his writing, he is a docent at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Baffico travels once a month to serve as a docent at the Wall. It is yet another way for Baffico to demonstrate service to those who served our country.