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Connecting with veterans through unique therapy

Members assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., help maintain garden plots at the Hampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center’s horticultural therapy gardens in Hampton, Va., Oct. 22, 2016. Volunteers help maintain the rehabilitative gardens by rebuilding structures, laying mulch and picking weeds, in addition to interacting with the veterans. (Courtesy photo)

Members assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., help maintain garden plots at the Hampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center’s horticultural therapy gardens in Hampton, Va., Oct. 22, 2016. Volunteers help maintain the rehabilitative gardens by rebuilding structures, laying mulch and picking weeds, in addition to interacting with the veterans. (Courtesy photo)

Members assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., spread mulch in horticultural therapy gardens at the Hampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, Va, Oct. 22, 2016.Gardens with plants that have colors, textures and fragrances that elicit a healing response are referred to as therapeutic gardens. (Courtesy photo)

Members assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., spread mulch in horticultural therapy gardens at the Hampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, Va, Oct. 22, 2016.Gardens with plants that have colors, textures and fragrances that elicit a healing response are referred to as therapeutic gardens. (Courtesy photo)

HAMPTON, Va. --

Throughout her weekly meetings and tasks, Jamie Reed takes moments to stare at the foliage outside her office window and looks forward to the one day of the month when she can get her hands dirty working alongside service members and civilians to take care of garden plots at the Hampton Veteran Affairs Medical Center’s horticultural therapy garden.

 

Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., community members devote their time to maintaining the therapy gardens, as well as spending time cultivating relationships with veterans who use the gardens as a therapeutic source.

 

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, this therapy has been proven as an effective treatment for a broad range of rehabilitative services for mental illnesses. The therapeutic approach of engaging in plant-based activities facilitated by a trained therapist can be used to assist participants in improving cognitive abilities, coordination, endurance and problem solving skills.

 

Therapeutic gardens are designed to help the veterans by associating treatment with the soothing elements of nature. The plants are typically selected based on color, texture and fragrance to stimulate a healing response.

 

“Veterans, therapists and volunteers can all benefit from the calming and healing effects of working in the garden,” said Reed, American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces manager. “This activity is a great outlet for these men and women who have struggled, and it gives them a new hobby to put their mind at ease. Having the service members interacting with them and providing companionship during their healing process is just the added bonus.”

 

During their once-a-month visits, the JBLE volunteers assist with maintaining the garden and interacting with the veterans by rebuilding structures, laying mulch and picking weeds. Reed feels it is a group effort to keep the therapy garden available for the veterans, and the JBLE volunteers are a huge asset to the program.

 

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cory, 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group standards and evaluations management NCO in charge, expressed that it is important to give back to the veterans, who helped form the military that he serves in today.

 

“I have had the chance to talk to several veterans while volunteering and hear their stories first-hand of how the military used to be,” said Cory. “It helps me see that we are heading in the right direction and it’s because of the veterans who have pushed for positive changes for their predecessors’ benefit.”

 

Cory hopes to encourage JBLE members to volunteer and help positively impact veterans with activities such as the therapeutic gardens.

 

Along with the horticultural therapy garden, the Hampton VA Medical Center offers equine therapy, special holiday events for veterans and is always seeking volunteers to assist in event productions.

“This is a fun way for all members of the community to support our veterans,” said Reed. “These interactions are beneficial for all involved, and above all, has a positive impact on the veteran’s treatment.”