DVIDS – News – Bend Veterans Ranch provides an oasis for vets to build connections and community

BEND, Ore. – Camaraderie and positive energy were on full display at the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch (COVR) during the 5th Annual Armed Forces Day for Plant Sale and Breakfast, May 21, in Bend , Oregon. Over the past five years, COVR has operated a 19-acre working farm that has engaged hundreds of veterans of varying ages and eras in peer support and farming-related activities, or “agri-therapy”. COVR Founder and Executive Director Alison Perry said COVR is a sacred place that provides an environment of camaraderie for veterans (which Perry calls family) to participate and connect with nature and each other to support mental well-being with therapy and peer support.

Perry said the vision for a therapeutic ranch for veterans began in 2007 when he worked on the PTSD clinical team at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. At that time, Perry was helping a 22-year-old Oregon National Guard veteran who had suffered severe trauma after being sexually assaulted by a soldier he deployed with upon returning from Iraq. In addition to severe trauma, Perry said the veteran was showing his early symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. Perry, who had developed a desire to help traumatized people, was sensitive to the veteran’s unique challenges and wanted to find a better way to support him.

Perry recalled the day she was told the veteran had been admitted to a psychiatric ward and was throwing furniture and threatening staff. Perry wondered if she had been through everything this veteran had been through, would she have reacted the same way. Her professional experience led her to believe that the veteran was retraumatized in this setting.

“I looked at a fellow social worker who was also working with the distressed veteran and said, ‘I wish we had a sheep ranch up east where we could send those vets when they got back to home, a place where they could work the land, sleep under the stars, and be in a community of other veterans,” Perry said.
Perry added that now she sometimes finds it hard to believe her vision is a reality, but regularly sees the fruits of this labor of love with a growing number of veteran participants each year, often reporting that “the Ranch” has changed. their life.

“It’s hard to describe…it makes me emotional after 16 years of working with veterans and seeing family members and friends who struggled to feel suicidal during and after deployments, feeling sometimes helpless,” Perry added. “It is incredibly gratifying to know that a team of concerned, committed and dedicated veterans and family members have made this place a reality. The Ranch gives veterans a sense of pride, a sense of connection, and a sense of community, changing the paradigm for how we integrate veterans after the military. I feel like this place offers a different approach that works.

Members of the Oregon National Guard Member and Family Support Program (SMFS) toured the ranch and were impressed with what they saw during the plant sale.

Grace Fox, Military and Family Readiness Specialist at ORNG SMFS, said her job is to connect military members and families to resources, and the Ranch is an example of an incredible resource that authentically helps veterans. Angela Jones, family programs battalion chief for the ORNG 82nd Cavalry Regiment based in central Oregon, agreed with Fox.

“That’s the kind of connection we need. Knowing there’s somewhere you can go (whether you’re still serving or not) and knowing you have that family.

Vietnam veteran Joe Florio is the Chairman of COVR’s Board of Directors. Florio, who served as a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), said he had experienced symptoms of trauma while returning from Vietnam, but felt like he couldn’t talk to anyone but people he knew from the army.

“When Alison told me about the Ranch idea, I was intrigued. It is a peaceful place where vets can meet and talk freely without restraint. It helps in long term and short term healing. We have a lot of Vietnam veterans here as well as recently separated veterans, and everyone is treated like family,” Florio explained.

Eric Hardin, a volunteer at the Ranch was a forward observer who deployed to Afghanistan and struggled to reintegrate after returning from deployment. Hardin said he was an example of how the “agritherapy” approach and peer support worked, and that coming to the Ranch helped him learn to open up and interact with people after his experience of fight.

“Caring for plants has kind of helped me reconnect with life. I love this place; I love coming here. Like veterans often do, I tend to avoid things that are good for me when I’m having trouble, but every time I come here I love it and I’m grateful that it exists.” Hardin said.
For John Parsons, Peer Support Specialist at the Ranch and retired ORNG veteran, the peer support program provides an authentic experience where veterans often feel more comfortable opening up to others. veterans.

“We connect with veterans going through their recovery, no matter what it looks like, and just walk alongside them, meeting them wherever they are on their journey. »

Parson leads a weekly group at the Ranch that trains veterans to mentor their peers and directs interested individuals to state-certified peer support training. He meets with about 15 other veterans each week to offer one-on-one peer support. Parsons added that while helping veterans is extremely important to him, being at the Ranch also plays an important role in his personal well-being.

“When I retired from the Army and the Oregon National Guard, the biggest thing I missed was being with my soldiers and other veterans, and the ranch gives me a way to connect with veterans, whatever their era.”

Parsons said he loves the diversity of veterans that ranges from Korean War and Vietnam veterans to young veterans who have recently left the military.

“In 20 years of service and 7 years of retirement, I’ve only been part of two organizations that have fundamentally changed the lives of veterans – and this is one of them,” Parsons said.

COVR director of operations and programs Adrian de la Rosa, a Marine Corps veteran with a nonprofit background, says working with veterans is his calling and COVR is a special place like no other. has never seen before.

“The out-of-the-box thinking and concept that Alison has created here, to me, is amazing. Every day we see and hear the success stories,” de la Rosa said.

For more information about Central Oregon Veterans Ranch, visit covranch.org or call 541-706-9062. You can also find COVR on Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

Date taken: 21.05.2022
Date posted: 31.05.2022 19:14
Story ID: 421867
Location: FOLD, OR, WE

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