Back to Focus

Grateful to serve

Social worker provides emotional stability

Gilberto Maldonado, Director of Psychological Health, Washington Air National Guard, is grateful for the opportunity to serve. Photo credit: Courtesy image

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

A licensed clinical social worker and substance abuse disorder professional, Gilberto Maldonado's life is one of gratitude.

"When I look back on my life, I realize that things could have turned out much different," he wrote in an email. "My mistakes turned out to be lessons and not sentences."

He is the civilian Director of Psychological Health (DPH) at the Western Air Defense Sector, Washington Air National Guard. A first generation American, he was born and raised in East Los Angeles. Growing up he recalls being curious, adventurous and convinced that he was going to be a professional athlete.

"To this day I love the Los Angeles Dodgers!," he exclaimed.

His childhood was centered in a ten city block radius. School, church, grocery store, city park, and a public swimming pool were all within walking distance.

His parents, who had come to this country in pursuit of a better life, worked nights and weekends. In their absence, Maldonado was looked after by his maternal grandmother.

"She was my comfort, my safety, and to this day remains the most important figure in our family," he continued. "The sacrifices she and my parents made have allowed my family and me to experience the American dream."

To achieve his dream he had to first learn to work at it.

More interested in having fun than going to high school, Maldonado did not consider the consequences of skipping school and heading to the beach or playing basketball all day.

"When my fourth year of high school came along and I didn't have enough credits to take the same classes as my peers and instead was retaking classes to make up the requirements, I woke up," he explained.

During his "second senior year," Maldonado decided that once he graduated he would enlist in the Army. Aiding him in his endeavor to graduate was his recruiter.

"He took a genuine interest in me; he was constantly at school; he was a mentor long before I enlisted," he continued.

Entering in January 1995, Maldonado served from January 1995 until September 2015. During that time, he earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland in 2011 and his master's degree at the University of Louisville in 2015.

While at Louisville, he was accepted into the Drug and Alcohol specialization cohort and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Substance Use Disorder Professional in Washington state.

While working as a program manager for a behavioral health program in 2019, Maldonado spotted a job posting for a social worker assigned to the Washington Air National Guard.

"I didn't know anything about the Guard's Psychological Health Program (PHP)... but I missed the military community and was intrigued what the position was and how it would be possible to be a part of the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS).

The PHP's mission is to advocate, promote and guide Guard members and their families by supporting psychological health fitness to insure operational readiness.

"I serve as an entry point for service members and their families for behavioral health needs by making myself available when they have questions about emotional or psychological health concerns," concluded Maldonado.

"I am grateful again that I ended up with the opportunity to help others and not a sentence."

Read next close

News Front

JBLM soldier honored

comments powered by Disqus