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Military Support Group 22 Until Valhalla Opens Wilder Storefront

As part of a capstone project to complete a master of business administration (MBA) at Thomas More University, four students teamed up to assist 22 Until Valhalla, an organization that helps military veterans with mental health problems and to prevent suicide.

The students aided in helping 22 Until Valhalla opening its first storefront location at 1400 Gloria Terrell Drive in Wilder.

The students are Justin Hedden, Justin Herzog, Edward Ross, and Ralph Turner.

Since three of the four students are veterans, they wanted to focus on helping a nonprofit that benefitted veterans.

22 Until Valhalla was started six years ago by Zach McGuffey, better known to his friends as "Guff".

"Our job was to help raise awareness for the problems that service people have with mental problems, and to help prevent suicides," said Hedden.

Guff, a Marine infantry veteran who served in the Second Battalion, first Marine Division from 2007 to 2011, decided to found the organization after a personal experience after he was honorably discharged in 2011.

After he was discharged, Guff started drinking heavily, and fighting depression, so by January of 2013, after battling PTSD and TBI, Guff had made the decision to take his own life. 

He went out and crashed his truck, determined to end his life. 

He was unsuccessful.

But eleven months later, his best friend Brandon Robinson, who had served with Guff, committed suicide, and Guff was devastated.

Guff went to Robinson's funeral and spent time with his family, staying among Robinson's belongings. Guff realized that there were large gaps in veterans care, especially when it came to suicidal veterans, and he determined then that he needed to make some changes to help his fellow Marines and other military.

Six years ago he started 22 Until Valhalla, a reference to, on average the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, and another reference to Valhalla, which signifies a great hall in Norse mythology where heroes slain on the battlefield are received to a place of glory, honor, and happiness.

But Guff's business was out of his home, and his dream was to have a location, to provide an alternative for veterans who are fighting the same kind of problems he had, to going to a bar and drinking too much.

"This organization helps veterans with different non-medical therapy forms to bring awareness to  mental health and suicide prevention," said Hedden. "Previously they have worked with partnerships and relied on businesses/organizations.  This weekend they held their grand opening of the new 22 UV Warrior Hall in Wilder."

At the opening, they held jiujitsu and yoga demonstrations, to show what kind of classes that will be offered to veterans, and visitors were able to see the exercise equipment that could help veterans work on their physical health, as well as their mental health.  

Food trucks and a bounce house were outside.

Guff was very pleased with the turnout.  

He said the hours will be about 3:30 to 9 p.m., open after Guff is off work at his regular job.  

Memberships will be available.

"The important thing for all veterans to believe is that they should never give up," said Guff. "I want to help with that."

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor