Research shows that combat trauma, commonly diagnosed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects individuals across the lifespan. Some veterans never have the opportunity to recover or heal from the wounds of war, only beginning to address these issues as their physical and mental health decline with age or at the end of life. Loss of control, bodily functions, and decision-making capacities can leave veterans with an intolerable sense of vulnerability that increases symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Central Oregon Veterans Ranch seeks to provide skilled clinical care specific to veterans of war and foster an environment of camaraderie, compassion, dignity, and peace at end of life. Hospice is defined as “a type and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill or seriously ill patient's pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs” (Wikipedia) and is provided when a person is within six months or less of dying. Hospice care promotes pain-free comfort and quality of life for individuals who are terminally ill and within six months of dying. Hospice can be provided in a variety of settings, including an individual’s personal residence, a family member’s home, an assisted living facility, adult foster home, or nursing home. Central Oregon Veterans Ranch seeks to create an adult foster home in a rustic setting where veterans within six months of dying can receive hospice care from trained professionals and volunteers who are skilled and compassionate in addressing the end of life needs specific to combat veterans. The mission to provide hospice care to veterans in a rural, small farm/ranch setting is rooted in the belief and well-documented findings that nature and animals are natural healers, and to provide veterans an alternative to an institutional setting. Anecdotally, many combat veterans have expressed a wish to be alone or away from people, even their own families, at end of life; to “go off into the woods and die alone like the Native Americans”. Central Oregon Veterans Ranch seeks to honor the wishes of veterans by providing them as much privacy and solitude as possible while tending to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at end of life.
Veterans and Agriculture Concurrent with tending to the end of life and hospice needs of veterans, Central Oregon Veterans Ranch seeks to create community and learning opportunities for veterans at various stages of life, especially those returning from war and integrating back into society. Organizations such as the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Archi’s Acres, and many others recognize the benefit of farming and agriculture for veterans as a way to both heal and earn a living. Programs such as Archi’s Acres VSAT (Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training) provide veterans with a training experience that teaches them tools and skills to be successful in creating sustainable farms and/or small businesses. Central Oregon Veterans Ranch seeks to provide veterans similar opportunities and is interested in partnering with local organizations and Oregon State University’s Extension Service for training opportunities for veterans and promotion of healthy, sustainable farms and food production.
Navajo Churro Sheep Navajo Churro are commonly called “America’s First Sheep”. Churros were brought to the Americas from Spain in the late 1500’s by conquistadors, later migrating north with missionaries where they became integral to the Navajo way of life. Navajo Churro sheep were nearly decimated by the U.S. government in the 1930’s during a campaign against overgrazing on the Navajo reservation. The man credited with preserving this now threatened breed is Lyle McNeal, a retired Utah State professor and Air National Guard veteran. The Navajo Churro Sheep Association states, “The fact that these sheep still exist today is a testimony to their endurance and endearment. No other sheep population in the history of the world has survived such selective pressure with such dignity and spirit.” Similar to this wild, rare breed of sheep, combat veterans’ survival is a testament to their endurance in often unthinkable circumstances, which endears them to their friends, families, and nation. Central Oregon Veterans Ranch wishes to support the efforts of the Navajo Churro Sheep Project in the preservation of this threatened breed, and to bring their “dignity and spirit” to the veterans and community of Central Oregon.