2021 TRAVEL VETERAN & SUPPORT RIDERS

Brenda Lee A.

Harrisburg, OR

Brenda-Lee retired after 21 years in the Air Force. While going through a difficult time in her life, she learned about the healing power of horses and equine therapy. Brenda-Lee started her journey with equine therapy in Yelm, WA in 2014. In 2015, she was chosen for the Mustang Workshop hosted at BraveHearts, which taught her how to gentle wild mustangs. Brenda-Lee has said the time spent with the mustangs was life-altering and continues to have an impact on her life. Brenda-Lee reconnected with BraveHearts through the virtual programs started during COVID-19. She is passionate about horses and aspires to become a therapeutic riding instructor.

Brenda Lee will be riding in Fort Wayne, IN and New York City, NY

Amanda B.

Poplar Grove, IL

Amanda joined the Navy after graduating high school. She always knew she wanted to help people and being a Corpsman gave her that opportunity. While working in the medical field, almost 14 years later Amanda and her family were introduced to BraveHearts in 2017. She is forever grateful for the introduction to such a life-changing organization. Amanda is continuing to learn how to manage her stress and anxiety more and more each and every day with the guidance of the amazing therapy horses, BraveHearts team, and her fellow brother and sisters. She is beginning her studies to become a PATH Intl. certified therapeutic riding instructor with the help of BraveHearts.

Amanda will be riding in Lexington, KY.

Will B.

Homewood, IL

Will holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s degree in educational research, and has worked in higher education for a number of years. He has been riding with BraveHearts for almost 2 years.  With no prior knowledge of horses, Will quickly learned their gentleness can help to heal a broken mind.  Will has struggled with his mental health and substance use for a number of years after serving in the military. While in treatment, he was introduced to BraveHearts and has stayed connected with the farm since. The relationship he has built with the horses, the staff, and fellow veterans at BraveHearts has had a significant impact on his recovery and continued success.

Will be riding in Bull Valley, IL and New York City, NY.

Fred "Cowboy" Busby

Dekalb, IL

Corporal Fred Busby, US Marine Corps, served from 1980-1983 activity duty military police and 1984-1986 active Marine reserve as military police officer. Following his discharge, Fred continued his law enforcement career for 28 ½ years. Fred, or Cowboy, as his friends call him, has been participating with BraveHearts since 2015. The first time Cowboy came to BraveHearts he was meeting with BraveHearts staff, as a representative of his motorcycle club with a fellow veteran to become a potential sponsor to help BraveHearts veterans. His visit was not intended to work with the mustangs but after being captivated by their presence, he stepped into the round pen — a moment that changed his life. Since that moment, which he describes as a spiritual moment, Cowboy has been passionate about horses and  equine assisted services. He has volunteered, participated in lessons, ridden in various special events, and was a part of the first Trail to Zero ride in New York City back in 2017.  He is just one of the many veterans who enter the barn not knowing much about horses but are led to a newfound passion and purpose because of them.

Cowboy will be riding in Bull Valley, IL and Chicago, IL.

Angie C.

Melrose Park, IL

Angie served as a Security Policeman from 1989 – 1992. In 2017, the VA referred her to BraveHearts to help her cope with her PTSD and depression. She began to feel a sense of confidence and energy there and found that working with the horses was the therapy that worked best for her. Angie now rides on the all-veteran drill team and volunteers at BraveHearts as well. Her connection with the horses and the camaraderie she shares with her Veteran brothers and sisters helps her as she works towards positive change, growth, and healing. That connection also motivated her to begin working towards becoming a PATH Intl certified therapeutic riding instructor. She feels part of a close-knit community and wants to assist other veterans and give something back to the program that gives her so much.

Angie will be riding in Chicago, IL and Fort Wayne, IN.

Kyle F.

Janesville, WI

Kyle Farbman, US Army, served from 2006 -2016 as a musician. Kyle was recruited out of college for his musicianship and went on to play in hundreds of funerals while serving in the military. Kyle sought out BraveHearts after a friend encouraged him that equine assisted services may help his symptoms from PTSD, which was an onset from his experiences playing taps in funerals and MST. Kyle has participated in weekly lessons since starting in 2017. BraveHearts is one of the two places in the world for Kyle that bring him tranquility. He is a very adaptable rider and eager to learn, as he has begun the journey to becoming a PATH International certified therapeutic riding instructor. Working with horses has helped Kyle to be more in-tune with himself and has given him tools that translate into his life and healing into each day. 

Kyle will be riding in Fort Wayne, IN and Lexington, KY

Clarence H.

Pocahontas, AR

Clarence, US Marine, served from 1970-2000, began participating at BraveHearts in 2015. Clarence relates to the horse and enjoys seeing the change occur between mustang and veteran. He feels that the two really understand one another and work towards the same goals. Clarence appreciates the comradery he has with his fellow veterans at BraveHearts sharing stories and supporting each other during lessons and through life. Most importantly, Clarence enjoys being with the mustangs as they help him to ease his mind and reassure him that everything is ok.  Clarence and his wife are raising mini horses and he acquired his very own mustang from the BLM early this year. 

 Clarence will be riding in Lexington, KY.

Ben J.

Johnsburg, IL

Corporal Benjamin Jalove, US Marine Corps, served in Okinawa, Japan from 2011-2015 active duty with his primary MOS as a 3531 motor vehicle operator specializing in the 3536 as a recovery specialist. Following his time served, Ben attended school at UTI of Lisle, IL for diesel and industrial technology which led him to becoming a full-time Detroit Diesel Engine Specialist and Allison Transmission Specialist. Ben has been riding with BraveHearts since late 2019, he says there’s nothing like the relief that connecting with a horse brings him in helping with his struggles with PTSD from his deployments. He has participated in many veteran organizations and treatment programs for PTSD but states that nothing compares to BraveHearts. Since the first moment stepping in the round pen with a BraveHearts horse named, Hank, Ben has found a newfound respect for therapy horses and appreciation for the help they have given him. Ben has stated, “the feeling of being one with such a unbelievable animal is like no other.” Along with his job being his hobby and his newly found interest in horses, he can now proudly says he has found his passion for life and has been able to overcome his triggers with young children. Ben has two beautiful young girls and an incredible wife to keep him moving forward along with his support from the horses at BraveHearts. 

 Ben will be riding in Chicago, IL and New York City, NY.

Paul M.

Machesney Park, IL

Paul Martinez, SSG(RET) U.S. born and raised in Denver Colorado. Paul was an Airborne Ranger Sniper and deployed 6 times to Afghanistan with 3rd Ranger Battalion. Paul is the author of his combat memoir “When the Killer Man Comes”, is featured in “World of Firearms; Sniper Journal” and is featured in the poetry anthology “In Love &…War” from Dead Reckoning Co., he has appeared on Fox’s hit show American Grit, with John Cena. Paul was introduced to horses while visiting an injured Ranger buddy. As his own injuries began to add up, Paul committed himself to introducing veterans to the healing opportunity of horsemanship nationwide. Currently lives in NY where he advocates for veteran causes and is a co-host of popular Mentors4Military podcast. 

Paul will be riding in Fort Wayne, IN and New York City, NY

Bill M.

Machesney Park,IL

Bill Mercurio was drafted in 1966 for the Vietnam War. He served with the 20th Engineers Battalion in Pleiku, RVN. Bill first started at BraveHearts in 2016 with his wife, Nancy, an avid horse lover was looking to get back to working with horses. Bill and Nancy began volunteering and quickly became immersed in the veteran program, riding together once a week. Bill tragically lost his son in 2017 and has stated that if it were not for BraveHearts, the horses, and his faith, he does not know how he would have been able to get through such a difficult time. Bill is a PATH Intl. instructor and is the Veteran Relations Coordinator at BraveHearts, helping other veterans get connected to horses. Bill was part of the 5 veterans who rode in the Trail to Zero pilot ride in 2017. 

Bill will be riding in Chicago and Fort Wayne, IN.

Nick M.

Milwaukee, WI

Nick served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2006-2010.  While going thru various treatments for PTSD, Nick came to BraveHearts with the Milwaukee VA.  During his initial weeks participating, Nick shared that he was in rough shape and his PTSD had gotten the best of him.  He rarely left the house and taking the step to go to BraveHearts was a big one.  Coming to BraveHearts has changed his life.  He continues to strive to be a better horseman and the best version of himself.  In 2014, he became a PATH Intl. therapeutic riding instructor and began teaching the same group from the VA that he first came with.  Today Nick is the Veteran Advancement Coordinator for BraveHearts focusing on advancing veterans to higher horsemanship, mentoring veterans to become instructors, and building up BraveHearts’ Operation Mustang program.

Nick will be riding in  Fort Wayne, IN and New York City, NY.

Dave M.

Elgin, IL

David served in the Vietnam War with the 1st Marine Brigade in the Pacific for two years.  Following the passing of his wife, David looked for an opportunity to help other veterans and found BraveHearts.  Working with the horses and other veterans has helped him to cope with that loss and find a brotherhood of support.  David is currently mentoring to become a PATH Intl. Certified therapeutic riding instructor with the help of BraveHearts.

Dave will be riding in Lexington, KY and Fort Wayne, IN 

Alex R.

Montclair, CA

Alex first started with BraveHearts in 2019 after hearing a segment on WGN. Alex had recently moved to IL from California on the quest for a new life after his father had passed. Alex stated that giving BraveHearts a chance was one of the best decisions of his life. From day one, he felt welcomed by the BraveHearts team and felt that he mattered. For the first time in a long time, he felt comfortable and happy. BraveHearts has given Alex a path to doing something he is passionate about and Alex has stated, that without BraveHearts he does not know where he would be today. Alex has gained so much from his time at BraveHearts not just about caring for horses but being able to process through his emotions through equine assisted therapy. BraveHearts has given Alex the brotherhood-like feeling he had in the military and he calls BraveHearts his second family.

Alex will be riding in Fort Wayne, IN

Dana S.

Island Lake, IL

Dana is an Army Veteran who served 6 years active duty fixing Apache helicopters. She completed a tour in Korea and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After her honorable discharge, she returned home to Illinois to pursue a business degree. A few short years after that, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Dana considers herself blessed to receive a life-saving transplant from an unrelated donor and is now 13 years cancer free. For years Dana has struggled with PTSD and the after effects of Irish and Cancer. Dana found BraveHearts in November of 2020 and started riding and volunteering with her teenage daughter. She has received so many blessings and support with being able to ride together. Dana stated that BraveHearts has given her time back with her daughter that she always felt cancer took from them. BraveHearts has been the support and caring compassionate Camaraderie she has been looked for. Dana  recently joined the Drill team and enjoys volunteering and showing others the same care and compassion she receives.

Dana will be riding in Chicago, IL.

Natalie S.

St. Louis, MO

Natalie spent 6 years in the Air Force after graduating college with a full ROTC scholarship. She began Therapeutic riding in 2019 after watching her youngest son (on the MO 2022 Special Olympics Equestrian team) blossom through the PATH Intl. Therapeutic riding programs. Natalie’s work with horses has brought peace in her 20+ year struggle with PTSD, anxiety and depression. Riding and the connection with horses brings joy and peace that Natalie didn’t realize was possible. The ability to spend time with horses is a gift. My son and I say, “Any day on a horse is a great day!”

Natalie will be riding in Chicago, IL.

Kayla T.

Beloit, WI

Kayla served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2012-2018 and is currently in school to achieve a BSN in nursing with a focus on mental health.  Kayla is a newer participant to BraveHearts finding her way to the farm in 2020, but shared that it has quickly become her favorite place to be.  She has been riding horses since she was 10 years old, so having the opportunity to participate in the veterans program has allowed to accelerate her horsemanship while having a welcoming place to take a deep breath and destress.  She is currently becoming a certified PATH Intl. instructor as well as volunteering all of her free time to the farms. She will also be graduating with her BSN in nursing with the intention to further her education and work as a mental health nurse practitioner while continuing to raise awareness for veteran suicide as well as the importance of mental health care.

Kayla will be riding on Chicago, IL and New York City, NY.

Jeff T.

Belvidere, IL

Jeff, US Army Veteran, served from 1971- 1974. Jeff joined BraveHearts in 2018 and is extremely dedicated to volunteering at BraveHearts, receiving the Top Volunteer Hours in 2020. Jeff rides on BraveHearts’ all-veteran drill team and participants in many special events. Jeff has stated that BraveHearts makes him feel like he belongs to something special. Jeff attributes BraveHearts to helping to keep him engaged in the community and has given him a healthy recreational skill. 

Nichelle W.

Glendale Heights, IL

Watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 as a child solidified a desire to join the Air Force. After a chance meeting with a BraveHearts instructor in 2017, she become hooked on the camaraderie and dedication shown by the BraveHearts horses, veterans, volunteers, and staff. Grateful and humbled by the opportunities afforded at BraveHearts she can often be found in the barn, emptying water buckets or cleaning horse stalls. As one of the youngest veterans and growing horsewomen she enjoys her time off the horse, leading in lessons or watching riders and instructors, almost as much as riding. Experiencing so many veterans who are open and honest about their mental health struggles and herself having a very stressful career in security with the federal government led her to get serious about her own anxiety. Still very much learning about horses and her own struggles with mental health she hopes to destigmatize mental health services for veterans and non-veterans alike. 

Nichelle will be riding in Chicago, IL and Lexington, KY.

Eileen W.

Tremonton, UT

Eileen, an Air Force veteran served from 1976-1982. Eileen was first introduced to BraveHearts as a volunteer. Although she is a veteran, she did not begin riding until a few years in as she enjoyed volunteering. Once she began riding, she found the instruction not only helped her physical condition of scoliosis, but also assisted with her overall emotional and physical health. The comraderie she found felt as if she was back in her military unit and as if she had found her new military family. Eileen has observed the immensity of what the mustangs give to veterans and is grateful to be involved with assisting her brothers and sisters at BraveHearts.  She is currently completing the certification to become a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning. Eileen is also a veteran mentor at the Utah State University program.

Eileen will be riding in Fort Wayne, IN.

Marshall W.

Belvidere, IL

Marshall, US Marine, served from 1981-1989. Marshall became interested in BraveHearts when looking for an organization for his motorcycle club to donate funds for veterans. After visiting BraveHearts, he soon became a volunteer helping other veterans and people in need in sessions. Shortly thereafter, Marshall started receiving lessons at BraveHearts through their Veterans Program. Marshall believes that there is a camaraderie that happens when working with the mustangs similar to the camaraderie found in the military. He feels that the mustangs are the spirit of survival. They represent freedom. The bond that happens from working with the mustang is the same profound bond that experienced in the military. Working with mustangs brings his mind at ease and a sense of nirvana overcomes him, which he is then able to share with everyone he encounters.  Marshall became a PATH Intl. certified instructor in 2017 and has been teaching at BraveHearts ever since helping veterans and children with various diagnoses.  

Marshall will be riding in Bull Valley, IL,  Chicago, IL, and Lexington, KY.

Ken Boyd

Gold Star Father & Board Chair

Ken is a Gold-Star Father. His son, US Marine, Cpl. CJ Boyd was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. After C.J.’s death, Ken’s wife, Patty, attended, the first Gold Star Mother’s retreat held at BraveHearts, which she states “saved her life.” Ken and his wife Patty have supported BraveHearts veterans since CJ’s death to honor CJ. Ken has become extremely active with BraveHearts through riding, helping with special events, and currently serves as the Chair of the BraveHearts Board of Directors. Ken and Patty purchased a horse in 2016, fortuitously named Brother, who now holds the name “CJ’s” Brother. Ever since C.J.’s Brother came into his life, Ken has been riding weekly and attributes his healing to this remarkable horse and to the service he provides to BraveHearts in service to his late son’s brothers and sisters. 

Ken will be riding in Bull Valley, IL,  Chicago, IL, Lexington, KY, and Fort Wayne, IN.

Meggan Hill-McQueeney

President/COO & Master Level Instructor

Meggan Hill-McQueeney is a lifelong equestrian. Nationally, she has competed in both English and western events since childhood and, later, she competed at the Mustang Million. Meggan spent much of her time in the cutting horse and thoroughbred performance horse worlds, learning the art of breeding, raising and competing at the highest levels. Meggan is self-taught, relying on her experiences and her natural understanding of both horses and humans. She developed her own therapeutic riding program in 1996 and began a second in 1999. Meggan is a PATH International Master Level Instructor, a Special Olympics coach, a trainer for Illinois SO coaches, and a PATH evaluator. In 2010 Meggan stepped into the role of BraveHearts President/COO. She is the 2015 recipient of the PATH Intl. James Brady Professional Achievement Award, honoring her great dedication, proven leadership and high ethical standards as well as her ability to develop and implement innovative, creative and effective ideas for the industry. Meggan’s theories have resulted in the ability of BraveHearts to expand its veteran services nationally, helping BraveHearts PATH Premier Accredited Center retain its status as the largest veteran program in the nation, using innovative equine-assisted services. Meggan’s desire to provide quality programing through higher-degree horsemanship with veterans is achieved through advanced concepts including gentling wild mustangs; mentoring veterans to become PATH certified instructors, and working cattle. Under her leadership, BraveHearts has developed a top-notch team of staff and extraordinary horses providing 13,107 sessions to 726 veterans in 2017 – all at no cost to any veteran. Meggan is a firm believer, as heard in her 2015 TED Talk that all veterans deserve to be given limitless opportunities – and that belief is demonstrated daily through the veterans who organically begin to explore a world of possibilities because of the experiences with BraveHearts horses and staff. Meggan has ridden on every Trail to Zero ride since the inception of Trail to Zero. 

Meggan will be riding in Bull Valley, IL,  Chicago, IL, Lexington, KY, Fort Wayne, IN and New York City, NY.

 

2021 Bull Valley Veterans

Edmond W, Chris S, Michelle A, John G, Larry M, Lis D, Randy B, Laura S, Will H, Tom N, David A, Curly T, Ashton K, Cindy K, Rob H, Roger S, Billy H, Chris P, Marshall W, Glenn S, Reggie, Ron, Miguel, Taylor, Jean, George M, Jesse W, Cesar O, Rod F, Craig D, Vince D, Ron L, Judy U, Sherri J, Erika T, Will B, Fred B, Ken B