Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘People keep asking me, “Why do you do this?” It is really out of love of country and love of horses.’

Islip Terrace

“I thought about helping first responders and veterans years ago. It’s been a dream of mine forever. I come from a family of military and first responders. I was taught to give back and never thought this was going to be an attainable dream. I thought I’d have to win the lottery to do it. My sister Maureen had said, ‘Do what you can with what you have.’ I had three horses, and I would just share them. Then I was like, ‘I have to develop this into something.’ Now, we have six acres in Calverton, which is fantastic. It needed a lot of work, but we had incredible help from the community and many companies. On top of that, the veterans and first responders have volunteered to help us build everything.

“Through equine assisted learning, the Warrior Ranch Foundation works with veterans and first responders that have PTSD. We rescue, retrain and repurpose horses and teach our participants about the nature of the horse. The point is for you to learn about you.

“The participants have tried clinical therapies, and they’re not working. They’re trying to reach out and get help. Some people are very skeptical; like, ‘What’s the horse going to do for me?’ But when they start experiencing it, the horse is the therapist. It’s very relaxed. There’s no pressure, no judgment.

“When I first started, [the foundation] was just going to be veterans. Then someone said to me, ‘What about first responders?’ I thought about 9/11. I had family there. When you see some of these horrible things, how do you go home and leave it in the car? You need to let it out. A lot of them are taught to take care of themselves and they keep it bottled up. So, the ranch is a place where there are other officers, firefighters and veterans with like-minded thinking.

“The ages range from people in their 20s to people in their 70s; we had a 90-year-old at one point. We want the veterans to end up mentoring the other veterans. We are up to nearly 200 people that have come through.

“People keep asking me, ‘Why do you do this?’ It is really out of love of country and love of horses. These men and women serve this country, defend our freedom and protect us every second of every day. It’s the least we can do.”

Interviewed by Victoria Bell