Peaceful Pastures for a Vietnam Veteran
By: Tara Morris
Gary, a single Vietnam veteran, and I met at the farmer’s market a few years ago. He was a customer, and I was selling our farm-to-table grass fed beef in our first year. We hit it off as friends nearly from the beginning. It wasn’t long until he began to bring his lawn chair and sit with me at that slow farmer’s market, just to visit. Then, he started riding with me to other markets, and he would help bag the beef while I took orders.
About that time, we acquired a wholesale beef account in the New Orleans area, which is a two hour drive from home. Gary “cleared his busy schedule” to ride with me to New Orleans, just for something to do.
Gary's PTSD bothers him a lot of days. After a few years of talks, I’ve learned a few things about his journey with PTSD. Have you ever had stressful days, when you’re in your own head and just feeling like a crappy person? That’s what it’s like every day. The lies of guilt from Vietnam haunt daily and create sleepless nights. Fireworks at the 4th of July and New Years bring back horrible memories. Loud noises, like balloons popping, can create a feeling of panic.
Conversely, my husband and I are younger, energetic farmers/ranchers who are enjoying life but have a lot on our plates. We’re doing direct farm-to-table sales, and our cattle operation is all the way from cow-calf to finishers at multiple farm locations.
This year, Gary wanted to hang out with me more, so he has become my companion and bodyguard for me on days that we have home deliveries. There’s nothing like having a bodyguard who has actually been at war. He likes to come over on Wednesdays to help unpack our beef from the butcher. And we still do our monthly New Orleans run, and sometimes, if it's not too hot and I don’t expect too many people, he’ll join me at market to pack orders.
Recently, we had some unexpected bred heifers at a farm that’s about 30 minutes from our house, but only about 10 minutes from his house. I brought him out with me once to check the heifers, and it was obvious that he enjoyed the beauty of the farm. Checking heifers isn’t rocket science- just takes time and some observing. Gary’s good at both of those things, and we are short on time. So, he offered to come check heifers for us daily.
It gives him time to be in the peace and quiet of the open fields, sit by the pond, and just relax. It helps us with one less thing on our long to-do list. This is one of the best win-win situations I’ve ever experienced. He thinks I’m hilarious, and when I’m driving us around on delivery route, he calls me “Pombo,” which was apparently a race car driver. Laughing, as well as peace and quiet, seem to really help his PTSD. Working on fence with me, or checking heifers gets him out of the house, into nature, and moving around. He helps me to feel really safe, and having an extra pair of hands and an extra mind for decisions helps tremendously. He’s got crazy stories and a wide perspective on life. If you ever get the chance to just listen to a Vietnam veteran, do it. But don’t say that you can relate, or that you understand, because we CAN NOT understand all that they’ve seen. But we can just be quiet and listen, and our long delivery days end up being just that. He’s good company to have around, good help, and a great friend to me. When his PTSD starts to set in, it’s time for a road trip.
I can’t help but believe that our meeting wasn’t an accident.
If you're a veteran or know a veteran in agriculture, we encourage you to connect with the Louisiana Farmer Veterans Coalition. They have a very active social media presence, and are a great way to meet other veterans in agriculture across the country.
Their Mission: We cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders, and develop viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. We believe that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems. We believe that agriculture offers purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.
If you'd like to learn more about how to get involved, they can be reached by email at: email@example.com