Andrew Kami's desire to counsel military veterans and their families came from his own experience in the U.S. Marine Corps. While serving in Iraq, his platoon was attacked, killing several men, and sending him and other wounded soldiers to Germany for medical care.
While Kami recuperated, a fellow marine in the next bed, with burns covering most of his body, began to dictate a final letter to his wife and children. When the letter turned into 50 pages of his life story, Kami had an epiphany. "I realized that right at the end of your life, it's not the medication or morphine that matters," he said. "Nothing matters except having someone hear your story."
He came home determined to share the stories of his fallen comrades with their families and enrolled in the master's degree program in Marital and Family Therapy at Pacific Oaks.
While earning his degree, Kami made the casualty calls that every family dreads—hearing the news that a loved one would never come home. He also worked with families of veterans who returned with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. As a licensed therapist now, Kami still travels to military bases and provides pro-bono counseling services for soldiers.
"I talk to veterans because I want to hear more stories. I want to be on the frontlines with these people who need help."
As the son of a Mexican mother and a Japanese father, Kami speaks both of those languages. In his private practice, he treats Spanish and Japanese-speaking patients among others. He also performs psychological assessments for the Departments of Mental Health and Children and Family Services, and has taught in the psychology department at Santa Monica Community College.
He credits Pacific Oaks and his professors for helping his get his life back on track after his devastating experience in Iraq. "The professors were very supportive of my background and culturally competent," he said. "They were so open and patient."