As Eric Griego prepared to retire from the military service with a 100 percent disability, one of his main concerns for his family was not knowing where they were going to live.
After receiving the good news from the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Bank of America a few weeks ago, Griego, his wife, Corie, and daughter Rylie, 6, now know where home will be.
On Monday, the couple that grew up in the East Valley and plans to retire from the service in the next couple of months, received the keys to their new home — a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, light-yellow stucco house with a two-car garage and new appliances in north Tucson near Orange Grove and Ina roads.
“It’s awesome,” Griego, 24, said. “The house is amazing. It looks prettier in person than it does in the pictures. It’s perfect for me and my wife and daughter. We were excited to see the house.”
Griego, a Specialist E-4 with the U.S. Army who is stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, was severely wounded in October 2010 when his group was ambushed while on patrol in Afghanistan while serving with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s 1st Squadron 75th Cavalry.
Griego, of Apache Troop, First Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, was on duty near the city of Siah Choy when Taliban fighters opened fire. Shot in the chest with the bullet exiting his neck, Griego bled profusely as he returned fire until his magazine ran out, fell to the ground and shouted that he had been hit.
The bullet that hit Griego tore through his chest cavity, ricocheted off his third vertebrae — barely missing the cord — and exited from his neck.
After being flown by helicopter to a military hospital, numerous staples and clamps could not patch all of the holes in Griego’s right lung, so surgeons opted to remove it and the top lobe of his left lung.
After undergoing months of rehabilitation from his wounds that most people die from, Griego, who has been in the Army for three years, now can walk on his own. However, he still is physically challenged as he is quick to tire and sometimes has to stop and rest from walking. High levels of humidity also affect him.
But, by having a home, Griego said a burden has been lifted from him and his wife, whose hardship retirement from the U.S. Air Force is pending so she can take care of Eric.
The Military Warriors Support Foundation (www.militarywarriors.org), which was founded by retired Army Lt. General Leroy Sisco in 2007 and is based in San Antonio, offers programs for military veterans who have been severely wounded or are facing hardships. The nonprofit organization, which is supported by numerous entertainers and country music stars, also partners with companies interested in hiring veterans separating from the service, and makes available four-year scholarships and education programs where veterans can learn new skills.
For service members to qualify for the home program, they must be retiring and cannot have a current mortgage on another home. Purple Heart recipients are preferred for the program, but not required. They also must complete a three-year mentoring program which provides them education on financial management and credit counseling.
The organization partnered with major banks such as Bank of America and Chase about two years ago to provide homes for military veterans with severe circumstances, and has given away homes in 29 states, Sisco said. On Thursday, it will give away its 200th home with a goal of giving away 1,000 homes to veterans in the next four years.
“We absolutely love our heroes,” said Sisco, who spent 42 years in the service. “We’re excited about this program, and it’s something that the banks are not competitive with. It’s gratifying. The veterans get a new home out of it, but we get a lot out of being able to do it for them.”
The Griegos had heard about the Military Warrior’s Support Foundation’s home program through a friend in San Antonio. With most of their family members living in the Mesa area, they applied for a home in Arizona. Eric is a 2006 graduate of Mesa High School, and Corie Griego graduated from San Tan Foothills High School in 2010 after attending Mesa’s Skyline High School for two years.
For service members to qualify for the home program, they must be retiring and cannot have a current mortgage on another home. Purple Heart recipients are preferred for the program, but not required.
Steve Banzhaf, Tucson market president for Bank of America, also helped make the home a reality for the Griegos.
“We couldn’t be more grateful about it,” Eric Griego said. “It’s an amazing thing to have happened to us.”
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