SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/24/2014)(readMedia)-- The Warrior 2 Warrior (W2W) program is the Illinois Army National Guard's (ILARNG) only direct, peer-based, support program for Soldiers who do not qualify for traditional veteran benefits because they have not deployed.

Born from the 'Buddy 2 Buddy' program founded in Michigan, the Illinois W2W program evolved from its foster foundation. The Illinois National Guard program supports the servicemembers and families. The program works in direct partnership with the ILARNG, the McCormick Foundation and the Health and Disability Advocates.

"If you are genuinely struggling, I would definitely refer you to the Warrior 2 Warrior program," said Pfc. Reggie Shepherd of Berwyn, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery in Chicago. "They have been and continue to be a big part of how I was able to get a job, find housing and support myself."

Shepherd learned about the program after a volunteer veteran visited his unit. The volunteer explained what the W2W program is, how it works and how Soldiers can seek help.

"When the volunteer veteran came to my drill weekend, it couldn't have been at a better time as I was coming up on being homeless," said Shepherd.

Whitney Shefte, a Peabody award-winning broadcaster took interest in the efforts of the W2W program in October. She highlighted the program in a short documentary in the Washington Post in November. The documentary can view it at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/11/11/struggling-to-survive-wars-trauma-by-helping-other-soldiers-to-do-the-same/ .

"The W2W program was able to provide me with a wealth of resources that lead me to my current employment, both my volunteer veteran and the veteran staff of Health and Disability Advocates (HAD) supported me throughout my entire job search," said Shepherd.

The HAD, ILARNG W2W program and the servicemember support branch asserts the program and has historically served hundreds of service and family members of the Illinois National Guard community and continues to provide an outlet of connection for Illinois veterans seeking to help those who serve.

"They really took the time to help me share my struggles and find a path towards employment," said Shepherd. "They helped me to develop a resume and let me use the computer lab resources and phone lines to network and set up interviews. They even connected me to other resources which ultimately enabled me to receive financial support."