To say that retired Air Force Tech Sgt. Jaime Medina is motivated to help other veterans would demonstrate a misunderstanding of the word “motivated.”
Medina is driven to help his brothers and sisters who wore the uniform, and for that, Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman named him the veteran of the year for Assembly District 13, which includes Tracy and Mountain House.
“It’s humbling,” Medina said Tuesday, sitting in the 11th Street office of his nonprofit, Fix’d. “I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of — and I am standing on the shoulders of — great people who were able to elevate me to that level.”
Medina graduated from West High in 1996 and spent the next 20 years in the Air Force, deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and other places around the world. He earned 23 awards, including three bronze stars, the U.S. Air Force Combat Action Medal, the U.S. Army Combat Action Badge and the National Defense Service Medal.
Medina began Fix’d in April 2016 because he wanted to fill in the gaps of service provided to veterans by the Veterans Administration. Sometimes that’s peer counseling. Sometimes it’s a ride, and sometimes it’s just listening to veterans by someone who has been in their shoes.
“A couple months after that, Judge Kronland, she had read the article. She reached out to me and she asked, ‘Can you provide that peer counseling and that mentorship to the court?’ I said, ‘I’d love to,’” Medina recalled. “The judge called Stanislaus and Stanislaus called — all the different veteran treatment courts. There are 33 in California. So in a way, we’ve become sort of the de facto veteran service organization providing the peer support counseling, providing the mentoring to veteran treatment courts.”
Eggman, a veteran herself and a social worker, said she understood too well why Fix’d was needed now more than ever.
“Sometimes people come back pretty bent from war,” she said Wednesday, just before the ceremony at the state Capitol honoring Medina and other veterans across the state. “They do need that help to come back up to their full operating capacity. It’s just so incredible for him to be able to do life coaching and peer support to other veterans who are suffering with addiction and PTSD and anger management and isolation and all those things that vets have to navigate when they come back.”
Medina said that though he was selected as the veteran of the year for the local area, he was representing others.
“There’s no way we could have gotten here without those who spend their free time creating processes and SOPs and making connections,” he said of the volunteers who operate Fix’d. “You can’t even take a village without your platoon, your company, air support. Same thing. Same concept. … I treasure all of those people that help me.”
Lisa Poff’s son is in the Army and deployed overseas. She already runs her own nonprofit, Patriots Supporting Tracy Warriors, and she began working with Fix’d around the beginning of the year.
“It comes from the heart. It’s passion. We’re not being paid X amount of dollars to sit and do our job or we’re just shuffling paper with people’s names on it. We have people walk in the door and we care about what they need,” Poff said. “My boy and several of my friends’ kids could walk in this door someday and have a need for these services. So if we don’t get it up and running and my boy needs it, where’s he going to go?”
John Dubitsky, who runs operations for Fix’d, joined Medina on Dec. 1, 2016, “in a low spot” in his life.
“I just started working with him, and then pretty soon I was in here every day and seeing people come through here and then results. Transformations,” he said. “My life has completely changed with this place.”
Medina hopes the Assembly recognition will allow Fix’d to expand and help even more veterans.
“I still do want to see this in a national level. Really spread out. It’s really close to being in a couple of states right now. It’s exciting,” he said.
But he’s committed no matter what.
“I threw everything I had into this. I sold my car, sold everything,” Medina said with a laugh. “I’m in it all the way until I drop.”
That’s exactly what Eggman said everyone in the district and the state should value about him.
“He is taking a really active, hands-on — He’s got a new mission, right? And the mission is to help other vets,” she said. “So I just think that bears recognition. That bears holding him up and saying this is Assembly District 13’s veteran of the year, Jaime Medina.”