During 2003, when my brother Warrant Officer Todd Perry deployed with thousands of other U.S. forces to Iraq, few of us were aware that operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would last more than ten years. Todd had served since 1998 as a Calvary Scout and Apache helicopter pilot. However, his experience following the events of 9/11 along with the experiences of his family and families across the nation changed drastically. As I worked toward a profession as a trauma counselor, the experience of my brother's first of three deployments drew me to the service of veterans and an initial position during 2005 at the Portland VA Medical Center.
The Portland VA, along with centers around the United States, was seeing not only an increase in the numbers of veterans from all eras seeking services but from a new population coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the case of an aging Vietnam Veteran population, the new events of war and available services seemed to bring veterans forth, sometimes out of 40 years of secrecy and survival mode, to tell their stories for the first time. During these first three years, I heard hundreds of stories of veterans coping with sleeplessness, nightmares flashback, depression, divorce, and numerous other issues of readjustment to a civilian world that did not easily connect to their experiences.
During 2007, I transferred to the Bend VA Community-based Outpatient Clinic and started working in the rural community of Central Oregon. Veterans came to the clinic from Madras to La Pine and as far away as John Day and Christmas Valley and seemed to bring different perspectives from many of the veterans I met in metropolitan Portland. A theme emerged among some veterans seeking mental health services who moved to "the right side of the mountains" after the war to get away from larger cities. Some veterans shared they preferred a more isolated lifestyle and that spending time in nature was the best way to find peace and relaxation. It was during this time while working with a client suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who rejected the institutional setting of a medical center that I started to wonder about the impact of a more natural holistic setting on healthcare models and healing.
The vision for building a ranch that would welcome all veterans was born. The ranch would facilitate peace for a veteran at the end of life and create a space of healing for veterans of all ages and eras in the various transitional stages of life.
In the next few years as I worked with individuals and groups, I discovered the work of other VA providers, met professionals who worked tirelessly to help veterans who needed healing, and connected with community members excited at the idea of creating such a place. During 2013 a formal Advisory Board came together to imagine, design, plan and name Central Oregon Veterans Ranch. During 2014, we became an organization and received approval as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We found land and space with a small home for our initial veterans. We hope you will join us as we create this very special sanctuary that invites veterans to come and find peace at any time of their lives.