It was no doubt another sigh of relief for Eric Griego and his family.
The soon-to-be retired Army Scout, who was nearly killed in combat while serving a tour in Afghanistan, is being recognized for his service with a new, mortgage-free Northwest-side home.
Courtesy of Bank of America and the Military Warrior Support Foundation, Eric, his wife Corie, and their six-year-old daughter Rylie walked into the 1,600 square-foot, three-bedroom home for the first time last Monday.
“It feels good. I love the support we get from everyone we have met,” said Griego, 24, who was previously unsure of where he and his family would be living upon his impending retirement from the service. “To see all these people come together for me and my family. We just really appreciate it.”
For Corie, it all still seems surreal.
“It really didn’t settle in until yesterday,” she said.
According to Bank of America Senior Vice President Steven Banzhaf, and Warrior Foundation’s Paul LaVoie, the gesture was the least that could be done for the hero and his family.
“It’s fabulous to be a part of this, and every time I do it, there isn’t a numbing effect,” said LaVoie. “You’re not only able to help those in the service, but you’re able to help their families as well.”
Griego, who is originally from Globe and grew up in Mesa, submitted an application for a home through the Warrior Foundation, and it didn’t take long for him to get a response that he was selected as the first Tucson recipient, and 143rd nationwide recipient of the Homes-for-Veterans program.
“It’s wonderful to be a part of something like this to honor such an outstanding young man, said Banzhaf. “This is one of the best days of work I’ve ever had.”
Serving in the Apache Troop, First Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Griego was shot in the chest by Taliban fighters while securing a road in Afghanistan. The bullet ricocheted off Griego’s vertebrae and exited his neck, in the process causing massive internal damage and bleeding.
“I just thought of my daughter,” said Griego. “That’s what kept me calm.”
The wound would result in the loss of one of Griego’s lungs.
“It’s been tough,” said Griego. “A lot of the struggle is mental, knowing that I will live with some of the results of my wounds for the rest of my life.”
But where Griego lost a lung, he gained the utmost respect for those who know his story of tribulation.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Eric’s father Peter Griego. “It opened our whole life to a new family, which is the military family. They hold you, and you hold them very close after something like this.”
Eric, who will be retiring from the ARMY with 100 percent disability, still has trouble breathing when partaking in moderate physical activity, but will continue the road to recovery in a city no doubt proud of his accomplishments.
“It’s been a long road with his medical issues, and it’s hard to say who deserves it, but I think we are honored and privileged to see him get this,” said Brenda Griego, Eric’s mother. “To be able to come back to Arizona is a dream come true for all of us.”
Griego was the first to survive a lung removal in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Medal of Honor for his service in the ARMY.
The life-changing incident hasn’t affected Griego’s bravery or spirit one bit.
“If I could go back and fight, I would do it in a heartbeat,” he said.