“I 100% do it for Guy. I’m tearing up right now just talking about it. It might have taken 45 minutes to cut the Riley’s lawn, and every minute of it I’m thinking about my friend.”
GreenCare for Troops Volunteer
Some GreenCare for Troops volunteers trace their passion for helping military families to a relative’s past or current service, while others do so out of a general sense of obligation to give back to those who sacrifice so much in service to the country.
For Steve Long, the inspiration comes from a single individual – a close friend who chose a career in the military and who ultimately lost his life. Long had met Guy Barattieri when Guy’s father approached him about getting some summer work for his son.
“Usually, when a father asks on behalf of his son for help, the kid isn’t worth a buck,” says Long. “But nothing could have been further from the truth.”
Steve Long was 22 and Barattieri was 16 and just starting high school, but they worked together the whole summer and became very close friends. The friendship continued right up until Barattieri graduated and headed off to West Point. He would serve out his Army commitment, spend time in the Seattle Police Department, and become a member of the Washington State National Guard.
In 2004, Barattieri became a contractor providing private security for organizations in Iraq and was killed in 2006 when his convoy encountered a roadside bomb. Devastated by the news, Long was determined to dedicate himself to doing something to honor his fallen friend, and one of those things was signing up for GreenCare for Troops.
“This is not a business, it’s just something I do on the side,” he says. “It’s just me, an old pickup truck, and a lawn mower.”
Long has been with the program since 2012, and most recently helped Kayla Riley and her husband Cory, a first lieutenant in the Ohio National Guard in the Cincinnati area. The couple found out that Cory would be deploying overseas in September 2022, not long before Kayla’s due date with their first child.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” she recalls. “We were both kind of in denial at first that he was leaving … we were trying to figure out how to be new parents while dealing with this upcoming separation. At some point you just recognize that you don’t have a choice and you just have to do it.”
Kayla leaned on the Guard’s Family Readiness resources for a lot of help but didn’t have a solution for lawn care when she and her six-month-old baby flew to Fort Bliss to see Cory one last time before he shipped out. A chance encounter with another soldier’s wife turned her on to GreenCare for Troops.
“She was pregnant at the time, and I asked her what she was going to do about the lawn,” says Kayla. “She told me about GreenCare, and as soon as I got back home I emailed them.”
Within a week she was matched up with Steve Long, and he kept the lawn cut for the Riley household until Cory’s return this past September.
“Steve was wonderful, very kind, and fast!” says Kayla. “He has grandkids that are my daughter’s age, so I felt very comfortable around him. He was always friendly with my daughter.
“For me,” she continues, “It was one less thing I needed to worry about. With my husband gone, and dozens of doctor appointments and other things to get to for a parent of a toddler, it was a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
For Steve Long, GreenCare for Troops is a way to honor his close friend who was so tragically lost. “I 100% do it for Guy. I’m tearing up right now just talking about it. It might have taken 45 minutes to cut the Riley’s lawn, and every minute of it I’m thinking about my friend.”
Why are Green Spaces Important to Military Families?
Parks, lawns, landscapes and maintained green spaces help to mitigate temperature increases in communities and significantly reduce energy use and cooling costs. Project EverGreen’s initiatives – GreenCare for Troops and GreenCare for Communities – have made a significant impact.
Through its nationwide base of professional volunteers, Project EverGreen has connected people, plants and their communities to maximize the health of grass, plants and trees, which in turn sequesters carbon and cleans the air. Both initiatives support healthy green spaces in neighborhoods and cities, enabling maintained green spaces to function as the lungs of the city and offsetting the negative effects of a warming environment.
A single group or individual cannot transform lawns, landscapes and parks but Project EverGreen’s coalition of businesses and individuals helps maintain green spaces so they can thrive.
Become A Volunteer Today
Are you ready to step up for a military family? Register today
The Title Sponsor of the GreenCare for Troops program Title Sponsor is Nufarm. SnowCare for Troops program in BOSS Snowplow. Platinum Partners include Toro, SiteOne Landscape Supply, AMGUARD Environmental Sciences. The Silver Partner is Arborjet/Ecologel.
Affiliate Partners include the Connecticut Grounds Keepers Association and the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.
GreenCare for Troops is endorsed by the National Association of Landscape Professionals