Army couple spends retirement in service to other veterans

Army retirees Lori and Mike Greco

Army retirees Lori and Mike Greco continue to serve the community, particular veterans. The Grecos are regular volunteer drivers for the Burnet County VetRide program, which offers veterans and immediate family members transportation to appointments. Along with VetRide, the Grecos help with veteran programs at the HARTH Foundation, which provides equine-based therapy. Recently, Lori became certified in a state of Texas-endorsed suicide prevention program. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

After Lori and Mike Greco spent their careers in the U.S. Army, retirement in the Highland Lakes could only mean one thing: relaxation, right?

“We’re just not like that,” Lori said with a laugh.

Mike nodded in agreement, adding, “We like to serve, just help.”

The Burnet couple spent the better part of their adult lives serving their country. Mike retired from the Army in 1997; Lori served until 2011. The Highland Lakes seemed the perfect place for the two veterans to settle down — about midway between both sets of parents.

But the Grecos aren’t just sitting under an oak tree watching the clouds float by — though they do that from time to time.

“We love our veterans,” Lori said. “If there’s a way to help them, we want to.”

The HARTH Foundation is one of Lori’s passions. HARTH stands for Healing and Recovery Through Horses. The facility offers equine therapy programs for veterans and other special populations. Lori oversees the veterans programs at HARTH and is working on her certification in equine therapy, something that took long hours of study.

“I never thought I’d become a certified equine therapist, but, you know, I saw how it changed lives,” she said.

Mike works on the grounds at HARTH as part of his contribution.

Both Lori and Mike are also regular drivers for the Burnet County VetRide program, which provides transportation for Highland Lakes veterans, their dependents, and surviving spouses. For many of the folks VetRide serves, it’s their only means of getting to doctor appointments, hospitals, and points in between.

Mike counts it an honor to work with VetRide.

“I’ve met some amazing people through VetRide,” he said. “You meet these people who have the most incredible stories. It’s just a privilege to be able to get them to where they need to go.”

The Grecos were among the first drivers for the program, which the late Chuck Caraway helped launch in 2010. The trips are free to the veterans and are door-to-door pickup and drop-off.

“We feel blessed to be able to help our veterans,” Lori added. “They’re such a special group of people.”

A great thing about VetRide is drivers can touch base with veterans who might not otherwise have any social interaction. Lori sees it as a chance to connect veterans with additional services or offer help if needed.

Lori and Mike look out for their fellow veterans, especially those who are struggling with any number of issues.

“There’s so many veterans who don’t seek help because it’s just not their way,” Lori said. “I’m kind of determined to find those vets and reach out to them so they can get help if they need it and want it.”

This past summer, she received training through the Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Suicide Prevention Council to become certified in ASK About Suicide to Save a Life, a statewide, community-based initiative to reduce suicides. Through the training, Lori has become a “gatekeeper” and learned to identify suicide risk factors and warning signs as well as how best to refer people for help.

“We’re losing a lot of our veterans to suicide,” she said. “Doing so many veterans activities, we can put our hand out to them and ask, ‘Are you OK?’”

Even in their retirement, the Grecos are still serving their country.

“We’re patriots to start with,” Mike said. “It’s my honor to help the veterans. It’s what I want to do.”

Lori pointed to how their efforts fulfill their mission as senior non-commissioned officers, even though they’re retired.

“Mission first and take care of your troops,” she said.

[box type=”info”]WHERE TO FIND HELP: Burnet County Veterans Services Officer — 830-265-8403 • Veterans Crisis Line — 800-273-8255, press 1 • VetRide — 830-613-9982 • HARTH Foundation — 512-656-7698[/box]

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