Another Way to Serve

June 1st, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

“On May 10, 2011 a federal judge ruled that the Veterans Administration’s mental health care system was “incompetent” and ordered a complete overhaul. It was revealed that 18 veterans a day were committing suicide. The number of soldiers and veterans committing suicide now far exceeds the number of deaths due to combat.” That’s pretty stunning. We are currently involved in two wars and we are losing more soldiers to suicide than we are to combat.

It’s really outside the understanding of those who have not served to truly understand the impact of going to war. I came of age during the Vietnam War . . . and even have a draft card. I went to college and was fortunate enough to have that deferment, but during my teenage years, not a day passed without thinking/obsessing about going to war. I was so spooked about the thought of just possibly getting drafted that I doubt at all that I would have been able to handle actual combat. Quite honestly, it is beyond where my imagination wants to go. And I believe this is a fairly typically response to war. We can read about it in the news, but try and actually imagine yourself in that situation, and it seems incomprehensible. It’s no wonder that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is claiming so many lives.

Currently there is no real program for soldiers with PTSD, even as they come home from war with issues bigger than they can handle and extreme difficulty transitioning back to civilian life. The military provides these soldiers with the drug Seroquel (a sedative); unfortunately this drug has been linked to suicide and depression among other issues.

If there is a positive out of all this, it’s that soldiers recognize this issue and are beginning to take the matter into their own hands, forming the Farm Veteran Coalition (FVC). According to the FVC, “The mission of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition is to mobilize our food and farming community to create healthy and viable futures for America’s veterans by enlisting their help to build our green economy, rebuild our rural communities and secure a safe and healthy food supply.” They are taking PTSD veterans and teaching them how to farm organically.

As Merlyn Seeley writes, “Once these veterans learn the skills they need to farm on their own, then they are given the resources to find and start their own organic farm. The veteran’s farms are used to supply organic, homegrown food to the American people. A veteran that once came home and felt like they nothing left to live for all of a sudden is serving the US once again, on a more personal and useful level. To top it off there is incredible evidence that shows that organic farming is helping the veterans suffering from PTSD.”

One of the keys to managing PTSD is to avoid triggering responses, such as hectic lifestyles and loud noises, both of which play a role in triggering PTSD symptoms. Soldiers-turned-farmers are reporting less stress, no depression, no drug needs, and no loss of sleep – all a result of the natural healing of farming. There is a great little 5-minute video that is well worth watching as veterans tell first hand about the impact of the FVC program.

I like the idea of framing farming as another way to serve. Make food – Not War. Now there’s a good little bumper sticker.