A nursing student at the University of Colorado College of Nursing has been named the 2021 Woman Veteran of the Year in Wisconsin for her dedication to helping post-9/11 service members leave the military and make the transition to civilian life, her volunteer work and serving her country with the U.S. Army Reserve.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar presented the award on November 9, 2021 to Lieutenant Colonel Darcie Greuel, BSN, RN.
“I am extremely proud and very honored to be recognized for the work that I do in my military and civilian careers. I’m overjoyed. Humbled. There are too many words to describe how I’m feeling,” said Greuel.
Education and Advocacy
She is earning a master of science degree with a concentration in Veteran and Military Health Care (VMCH) through the online program at CU Nursing. Greuel also serves as the program manager of a Veterans Administration Medical Center team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin dedicated to caring for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan post 9/11. The team screens veterans for medical and case management needs, teaches them about medical and healthcare benefits and connects them with care. In 2007, Greuel was hired as the first registered nurse case manager assigned to the new program, now called the Post 9/11 Military2VA Case Management Program.
“I enjoy working with our veterans. It’s truly a passion to help them transition back to civilian life. Many of the service members go on multiple deployments back-to-back having little time to decompress and may think it’s a sign of weakness to admit they’re hurt or struggling or suicidal. We can be their best advocate and also educate them about their earned benefits and what the VA has to offer.”
Greuel has been at the Veterans Administration for 21 years and has served 37 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. Her first active-duty tour was in 2003 to Bagram, Afghanistan where she cared for patients in the Intermediate Care Ward.
In her second active tour of duty from 2015-2019, she commanded a medical unit in Madison, Wisconsin for a Homeland Operations mission. The unit was trained to become proficient in chemical, biological and nuclear decontamination. In the case of a real-world event, her unit could be called to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to triage, treat and transport victims to the closest higher-level of care hospital. In September of 2021, the Lt. Col. took command of another medical unit, the 452nd Field Hospital, in Milwaukee.
Seeing both sides of the story
That dual expertise from the military and Veterans Administration has given Greuel a unique perspective to help other service members like her.
“I feel very blessed to have my foot in two doors. I can really relate to soldiers coming off of a tour of duty. Many of them don’t know anything about the VA. I can help them access care and connect them to resources. It’s nice to be able to speak both of those languages, to make those connections and help people,” she said.
Greuel learned in high school as a foreign exchange student in Peru, South America, that she wanted a career helping people. She witnessed the poverty in the third-world country and wanted to lend a hand, but didn’t know how. At the time, Greuel admits she was deathly afraid of needles. Still, after she enlisted in the reserves, she chose to be medic. She since has had opportunities to travel the world providing medical and humanitarian aid. Those experiences led her to become a licensed practical nurse in the Army, then to earn a registered nurse degree with the VA.
Today, she’s making a dent in her bucket list by earning a master’s at CU Nursing. Greuel plans to graduate in December of 2022. Despite many years of experience in both the military and with the VA, Darcie says the knowledge she’s gained from the VMHC program has truly helped her to see things through a different lens. The program has provided her with multiple opportunities to see things from a broader perspective and to embrace the true art and science of nursing. While she’s not sure what the future holds with a new degree, the award-winner is certain she wants to keep making a difference for veterans.
“I've been told so many times I've made a really important impression on them or I've helped really change their lives,” she said. “There's just nothing in this world that is more meaningful than that to me.”