Today, he’s working toward learning a different form of “combat” – the kind waged in courtrooms or at mediation table.
Thanks to the George and Gwendolyn Goodin Scholarship, a fund of Napa Valley Community Foundation, Lomeli is now a second-year law student at Pepperdine University School of Law.
This Napa High School grad (class of 2004) said he always wanted to be in the Army, preferably in the infantry.
“It was a personal test,” he said. Back then, “We were in a time of war, and my mentality was, as an able-bodied male, I should be doing something for my country.”
Two weeks after graduating, his military career began.
But there was just one problem. Doctors soon discovered he had a form of color blindness.
His first choice, the infantry, was no longer an option. Given the choice of training as a licensed practical nurse, psychiatric technician, chaplin’s assistant, traffic coordinator or combat medic, Lomeli chose the closest thing he could get to being in the infantry – combat medic.
After being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, his career included work as a certified nursing assistant, combat medic and medical operations officer. He worked at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C, and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He deployed twice — first to Iraq for 15 months, then to Afghanistan for nine months.
By 2011, seven years later, Lomeli said he was ready to leave the military.
“I realized that what I wanted from life wasn’t going to be able to be accomplished in the military,” he said. “I needed to step away and get an education and change my career path.”
“I wanted my freedom back. I wanted to be able to think on my own and make my own decisions,” he added.
He was most interested in getting a degree in business or economics. “I wanted to understand how business and economics work,” he said.
The scholarship, administered by the Napa Valley Community Foundation, has helped.
The veteran and his sister are the first to go to college in his family. Lomeli’s mother works as a court stenographer and his father is a carpenter. Lomeli said he used his GI Bill funds earned for his undergraduate tuition. Law school tuition runs more than $60,000 a year, he said.
So far, he’s been granted approximately $25,000 from the fund, said Lomeli.
In an interview in the Napa Valley Community Foundation newsletter, Lomeli said “the biggest thing for me with this scholarship is knowing that there are people willing to support me.”
“Every time I have received word that I have been chosen for this scholarship, it always makes me a little emotional because it reminds me that someone out there is thinking of me, and that they actually care,” he said.
“That alone gives me more than enough motivation to not only finish my education, but to do the very best that I can.”
According to the Napa Valley Community Foundation, George W. Goodin was a career military man who served 28 years in many duty stations around the world. When he and his wife wrote their trust, they directed Napa Valley Community Foundation to establish an endowed scholarship for Napa County residents who had served their country in the military, or for the children of those who died in active duty.
Since its inception in 2013, the George and Gwendolyn Goodin Scholarship Fund has awarded 23 scholarships for a total of $95,750.
Lomeli said he would eventually like to go into conflict resolution or mediation, specifically helping veterans navigate the legal system.
He sees a “parallel” between his work helping soldiers as a medic and his work helping people with legal issues, he said. “It’s fulfilling.”
Lomeli spent part of this summer helping at-risk veterans in a mediation clinic in Ventura County.
Some of the soldiers come back with serious issues and “just to have someone with these same experience give them a hand, it’s huge,” he said. “If I can help, or give guidance, that’s what I’m going to do.”