Sunday, August 14, 2011

In Florida, disabled veterans recover, find employment through farming

From First Coast News in Florida:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's called the home of the red, white and blueberry. It's goal? To help show those who served the red, white and blue that they are not alone.

It's a place where disabled veterans find a new lease on life after the military.

"I come out here three days a week," said Patrick Bryan.

Bryan is a Navy veteran. He's used to tracking submarines, but over the past year, found himself jobless.

"It's kind of difficult to find a job tracking submarines you know in the civilian world," said Bryan.

So he turned to another veteran for help, Adam Burke.

"What we're doing is trying to create sustainable lives using sustainable agriculture," said Burke.

Burke, an Army Sergeant, founded Veterans Farm in Jacksonville. He was injured in Iraq, just two weeks before he was scheduled to return home.

While home, he noticed that it wasn't easy for vets to transition back to civilian life.

"These guys, we're providing them with income to help save their homes, their families," said Burke.

At the farm, military vets learn all about agriculture. During the process, they also experience horticulture therapy which helps with things like post traumatic stress disorder.

"Horticulture therapy is proven to work. A lot of our guys have lowered their blood pressure medication. It helps with traumatic brain injury," said Burke.

The experience can also get them back to work. With the newly acquired knowledge about farming, they can then start their own farms to earn a living off of the land.

Some are already earning money with a fellowship at Veterans Farm.

"They know at the end of their fellowship program, there is something waiting, something better that they can provide for their families and that's to start their own farms," said Burke.

"I was just saying to Adam the other day, from the battlefield to the farm field," said Bryan.

It's quite the transition. But just like on the battlefield, the vets also find a close bond here. Through education and socialization, they can recover from combat.

It's also learning that there is life after the military.

You can help out the Veterans Farm by volunteering or donating. You can sponsor a bush for $20 in honor of a loved one.