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These US War Vets Use Farming As A Way To Heal Their PTSD

It is no secret that US veterans of war are fighting - some of them, for their lives - in their own country.

After the stresses and horrors of war, they struggle at home with unemployment and higher rates of depression and suicide. Service members often find themselves waiting for months to get appointments at Veterans' Affairs health facilities.

Jon Jackson, a combat vet in Georgia was experiencing these very obstacles when he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He served in Iraq and Afghanistan - six tours in total, the effects of which weighed heavily on him upon his return.  Getting care for the post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury was a struggle.

"Every appointment that I got with them was because it was like, 'No I need to see you right now,'" Jackson tells Public Radio International. "I'm fighting, fighting, fighting. Then you get sick and tired of fighting. Why am I fighting for care? Well, guess what happened within that six months? I found out I got diabetes."

Faced with roadblocks at every turn, Jackson decided to move his family to Milledgeville, Georgia, where he could get better care. It was here that he got the inspiration to start a working farm for struggling vets.

He named it Comfort Farms, in honor of his friend and fallen soldier, US Army Airborne Ranger Cpt Kyle A Comfort.

Vets working on the farm are immersed in every aspect of farming life - feeding, planting, cleaning and other general duties are just one part of the work they do. The real work is what goes on inside each of them as they re-adjust to their civilian lives.

"...In the farming environment, with Jon and the farm, every morning you're up doing something," says Thomas Scott Kennedy, a veteran suffering from PTSD, who works on the farm. "You're taking care of the animals. You're looking outward. You're not looking inward. That's helpful."

About 150 vets and their families have visited the farm this year. The work helps vets to find their calm within the chaos of farming life and to find strength in each small victory.

"Man, [these animals] don't know the amazing stuff that they're doing for our vets who come through," says Jackson.

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