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Veteran inspires fellow veterans struggling with mental health

Posted at 6:35 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 09:59:47-04

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — If you or someone you know has served our country, the change from military to civilian life can be challenging.

Bill Klingenberg is a veteran and Peer Support Specialist at the VA in Lexington. He's using a personal challenge to help others who might be in a similar situation.

"Air traffic controller," said Klingenberg, who served in the U.S. Navy. "Was in it for 11 years."

"I was on three different ships," he said. "Loved every minute of it."

The northern Kentucky native grew up in Fort Thomas, just a couple of miles from Southgate.

"I had a bad case of PTSD related to the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire," he said.

On a spring evening in 1977, the nightclub caught on fire. It burned to the ground. More than 160 people were inside and didn't come out.

"The stuff that happened at Beverly Hills, I ended up helping in the recovery effort after the fire," Klingenberg said.

Then just 13 years old, Klingenberg was close to the aftermath. He has coped with that for decades, only he didn't know it was PTSD. It was shortly after 9/11 when he was still serving our country, but the challenges sent him to the next phase of his life.

"They don't allow you to be an air traffic controller with bipolar disorder, so it kind of ended my career," he said.

Klingenberg returned to northern Kentucky. He lost his home, family, and cars. He went on to earn a degree in social work from the University of Kentucky.

"The story is about recovery," he said. "And how you can overcome challenges."

Moving to Georgetown was just one of those steps forward.

"I came here for anonymity," he said. "And I got it."

Through the VA, Klingenberg found his calling to be a peer support specialist.

"It was like custom made for me," he said. "Once I began to get it back together, I always wanted to help other people dealing with that stigma because it's crushing."

"I had this problem. I did this. Now, look at the results. It took 10 years, but I got it back together. And you can too."

Klingenberg is nationally recognized through the VFW's Still Serving campaign.

"If I can just help one guy, that's a success."