Greg grew up in Hooksett, New Hampshire with his brother and 2 sisters. He joined the National Guard in 1978 at the end of his senior year in high school.
He chose to go into the National Guard because he wanted to serve, and also his father was in full time, and his grandfather was in WWI, so there was a military tradition in his family. He was also very interested in and quick with military history. He was involved in artillery training at Fort Sill. After the National Guard, Greg had the opportunity to go on Active Duty, and was sent to Wertheim, Germany, and served in the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery.
Once he was out of the Army in 1988 he pursued his teaching certificate at Franklin Pierce College. He wanted to teach middle school students. New Hampshire at that time was not looking to hire, so he spent 6 years working as a para-professional, and 12 years as a substitute teacher.
Also in that time Greg was taking care of his ailing mother, where he lived until she passed away. At which point he realized that there wasn’t anything holding him to New Hampshire, and began doing research on places to move. He found Helena. He found that there was a demand for teachers, and he could pursue his desire to teach. His brother in-law also told him that Montana had a high reputation for taking care of their veterans. And according to Greg, he was right!
So Greg “rolled the dice, packed the car and headed west.” Upon arriving in Helena Greg found that there weren’t many homeless shelters, and ended up out at Fort Harrison VA. There he learned about the Willis Cruse House, and his benefits eligibility. He stated that the people out at Fort Harrison really helped him out, and took great care of him. He said “other parts of the country aren’t like that; Montana is doing much better by their veterans then others.” He also said with a smile “Helena seems like it’s still the 70’s, not technologically, but because everyone’s still very kind. And even though it’s not that small, it still has a great small town feel to it.”
Greg has been in the Willis Cruse House since January 7th, and he is incredibly thankful that he is. He says he’s “very fortunate not to be on the street, and it was miraculous that there was an opening. I don’t know what I’d have done otherwise.” He says “This house made the gamble I took pay off. I’ve learned a lot about the VA, and have been able to network and meet people.” He is also extremely excited about being able to get dental care thanks to the Willis Cruse House. He figured when leaving New Hampshire, he “had nothing to lose.” He said that the house was “the right thing, right place and the right time!”
Right now what Greg wants to do is be able to teach, and maybe get a job at a summer camp. His goal is to be self-sufficient by the summer so he can get his own apartment.
Greg says he’s really grateful to the Montana Veterans Foundation for having the Willis Cruse House. “Without it, there would be a lot of people out there in trouble.” He also said that even when he gets his own place he’d like to remain active within the Montana Veterans Foundation. He wants to keep the connection to the community. He would like to stay until he’s back on his feet then he wants to give his spot to someone else who needs it.
Of working at the Thrift Store, Greg says it’s like saying “Thank you to the MTVF.”
Greg thinks that there needs to be more places like the Willis Cruse House, because our returning Veterans need a place to transition back into their communities. He says “The Willis Cruse House is like a stand-in for people’s families and communities. Things have changed dramatically in the time they’ve been gone, and they’re going to need a place like this. The tidal wave of returning vets in need is just beginning. This is the calm before the storm.”
“My stay here will be short term, but I want to keep the connection.”
*All veterans interviewed signed legally binding releases of their stories
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