Restoring Purpose and Spirit to Combat Veterans
The Central Oregon Veterans Ranch (COVR) broke ground on 19 acres north of Bend in 2015, but the seeds of this one-of-a-kind model of care and fellowship were planted long before. For many years, Alison Perry, a licensed professional counselor and founder of COVR, worked with veterans though the United States Department of Veterans Affairs system in Portland and Bend, and despaired over what she identified as a hopeless cycle of treating combat warriors with pills instead of providing compassionate care. She saw veterans self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, retreating from friends and family, and suffering in silence. Perry envisioned a healing place where veterans could work the land, sleep under the stars and be in a community of fellow veterans. This vision is realized in Central Oregon Veterans Ranch, which has served nearly 100 veterans. It is home to two feisty llamas, chickens, a greenhouse, peace garden and the Honor Quarters, a home where veterans can live out their last days in a loving community.
Russell Hunston, a Marine combat veteran, describes the “natural healing” he has experienced on the ranch. Remembering the jungles of Vietnam he says, “you lose your soul.” Many veterans feel disconnected from family and friends when they come home, and some feel stigmatized by civilians who don’t understand combat trauma and mistakenly view it as a disorder. The ranch provides a place for veterans to feel supported by peers who understand what they’ve experienced in war.
Community is one element of the healing process for veterans; the other significant pieces are service, engaging in meaningful work, discovering purpose, and experiencing the “regenerative energy” of working on the land, says Perry. “There’s a goodness that’s taking place here,” says Bill Cassel, a Vietnam combat veteran. “We’re all gonna be better off at the end of the day.”
“There’s a goodness that’s taking place here. We’re all gonna be better off at the end of the day.”—Bill Cassel
Organic lettuce from the COVR greenhouse is sold at Little Pizza Paradise, 63455 North Highway 97, Bend. Micro greens are sold at Central Oregon Locavore, 1841 NE 3rd Street, Bend.