Our American Dream: Tina Griego, From Soccer to Soldier

Tina Griego on a humanitarian mission to El Salvador.

Tina Griego on a humanitarian mission to El Salvador.  (Griego)

Across the United States, in all fields of endeavor, Latinos are working to uphold their place in American society. Fox News Latino is proud to present "Our American Dream" – a series of snapshots and profiles of Latino success stories.

Army Specialist Tina Griego’s fancy footwork has led her down the path to her life’s purpose. 

A soccer player of Mexican descent, Griego, headed to Abilene Christian University on an athletic scholarship. However, in the midst of her pursuing her education, she discovered her scholarship would not be enough to finance a four-year degree.

Griego had played soccer since she was 3 years old, and her entire life revolved around her sport. Despite the cost of her education Griego was determined to get through school, and become only the second person in her family's history to get a college degree.

Luckily the solution to her financial woes became clear.

Her father had once mentioned the National Guard and touted all the benefits available, including a paid education. At the time, her brother had been considering enlisting, and their father had been helping him with the research. 

But to their surprise, Griego decided to enlist in the Army National Guard. Her grandfather and cousin had also been in the U.S. Army. She joined three years ago and was assigned to the Horizontal Engineering Unit.  

“I’m operating heavy machinery,” Griego said. “My dad and his dad had a shop and they would run all that kind of equipment.” 

As a member of the Horizontal Engineering Unit, she was allowed to stay in Abilene and pursue her degree while serving in the Army National Guard.

But what started as a decision based on finances quickly evolved into something more.

It was on a humanitarian mission to El Salvador that her life’s purpose became clear. Griego recalls, “there was a U.S. base and we were moving out, so I was in the tear-down crew. “ She saw children begging for food just outside the base.

Military restrictions made it hard to help feed the children, but she was able to communicate with them and get them some of what they needed. Griego remembers telling them, “If you guys promise to go to school, I will get you a soccer ball.”

Near the end of their stay in El Salvador, she was able to give them a soccer ball and show them some moves. 

The mission opened her eyes to the humanitarian need of basic things like food and shoes.  

Griego proclaims, “I felt like God was saying, ‘hey you are doing what you are supposed to do.’ That was one of those moments when I knew I was supposed to do social work.” 

Influenced by her tight-knit family, she said, “a lot of what I’ve gotten, as far as what I want to do in my life, comes from my grandma, my Wuela.” 

“Never stop giving, that’s what she taught me,” Griego explains. 

Griego plans on getting a Masters Degree in social work, focusing on helping soldiers coming back from deployment.  

“I’m working Temporary Active Duty on Camp Mabry working with education and incentives but the people I’m working with are from Infantry to Medics to a whole bunch of different people,” Griego told Fox News Latino. 

The soldiers are coming back from deployment and they have medical needs, including how to deal with PTSD and also financial needs, but they don’t really know about all the services available to them. 

“I feel like I have been given so many great opportunities in my life, that I just want to turn around and help other people,” Griego says. “A lot of it is people just don’t know, if they don’t know something, they won’t utilize it. I love being in the military and doing social work and the idea of putting them together for me…… I would love to do it.”  

Then she smiled and said, “Like my Wuela used to say, never stop giving.”

Gigi Erneta is a Fox News Latino Contributor, a Radio Host of Standing Freedom, and freelance writer.

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GiGi Erneta is a Fox News Latino Contributor, a Radio Host of Standing Freedom, and freelance writer.

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