Alan and Renee Means use their land, their home and Grace Farms to transform the lives of veterans.
While Alan was too young to serve in the Vietnam War, he vividly remembers the way many soldiers were treated upon their return to the U.S. And from what he saw, it wasn’t with respect. That experience changed Alan forever.
Years later, when Alan and Renee, his wife, had the chance to give back to soldiers returning from war, there was no question about what they would do – they gave it their all.
Support from Farm Credit
Alan and Renee moved to McCaulley, Texas, in 2005, with the hopes of purchasing some land in the country. However, they knew if they were going to make such a big purchase, they’d need some help. That’s when the Means turned to Jason Jones, the office president of AgTrust Farm Credit in Sweetwater, Texas.
“There was an instant connection,” Alan said. “Jason’s been my loan dude ever since.”
Jason felt that instant connection too. “Every loan has a purpose – a cause,” he said. “Some people want a place to get away and relax, some are going to make their living off the land. When I started talking to Alan, I got to know what he stands for. And it’s pretty amazing.”
Sharing peace and quiet
In 2009, Alan was invited to join the board of directors for Reel Thanx, a non-profit based in Midland, Texas, that provides all-expenses-paid fishing trips to wounded, ill and injured military service members and veterans. The organization hosts four small group trips a year, making sure each of participant receives a personalized experience.
When Alan saw the impact the fishing experiences had on the warriors, he and Renee decided to create a place where soldiers could experience the peace and beauty of their holdings in the Texas countryside.
"I think it's a release to be out on the land,” Alan said. “It's a release to be out on a peaceful place like Grace Farms… there's something to be said about that peace and quiet and being able to be with nature.” It’s Alan’s hope that the time the soldiers spend at Grace Farms provides them the opportunity to forget about their pain for a while and just have fun.
Part of the family
When the warriors join Alan and Renee at Grace Farms for a hog or turkey hunt, they are treated like family starting the second they step off the plane.
“From the moment we give them that big welcome hug, they’re never out of our sight,” Alan said. “These guys are like sons and brothers to me now.”
Alan named the soldiers’ bunkroom in his barn for David Larson, a veteran who had come down on turkey hunts a couple of times with his daughter. David had planned to come down again in the spring of 2020, but he became seriously ill. Soon after, David passed away from colon cancer. Feeling a strong connection to David, Alan made the long drive to San Antonio for his funeral, just one example of the bonds built at Grace Farms.
A team effort
Renee has also developed a strong connection with many of the wives of the warriors she and Alan have met through Reel Thanx. She started a sister program called Reel Wives, which hosts semi-annual weekend retreat trips.
“A lot of the soldiers come home wounded and their wives become caretakers,” Renee said. “We want them to know they’re heroes, too. They deserve to be honored just like the guys.”
Reel Wives participants take a break from the pressures of day-to-day life and caretaking, enjoying fellowship with other military wives while focusing on their own needs for a few days of rest and relaxation.
A time for rejuvenation and connection
When he thinks about what Reel Thanx means, Alan’s mind turns to providing a much-deserved break for the soldiers who visit Grace Farms.
“It's an escape to come out and not have to worry about their daily lives. Maybe it's a pain from a bullet wound or their PTSD that's flaring up,” he said. “It's a release, they can come out here and forget about it. I love sharing that with these guys and gals; it warms my heart.”
Alan and Renee Means exemplify how a vision for living one’s own life can become more than ever imagined. Grace Farms is changing the lives of brave Americans one hero at a time and AgTrust Farm Credit is proud to play a part in making that happen.