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A Day of Healing: Connecting Veterans Through Agriculture

Marvin Frink with cattle

What seemed like another trip back home was anything but for Army veteran Marvin Frink.

After 15 years of service and deployments to Kuwait, Korea, and Saudi Arabia, Marvin transitioned back to civilian life and wasn’t quite sure what was next.

Upon returning home, Marvin’s late father, the Rev. Kirby Frink, also noticed something wasn’t right with his son.

Marvin felt distant and, at times, emotionless. It was evident that he was living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, and his father knew exactly how to help. Kirby needed to bring Marvin back to his roots — to farming — and so he asked Marvin for one simple favor that forever changed his life.

“My father saw that I was struggling with PTSD and asked me to come home because he needed to see me,” shared Marvin. “When I got there, I found out that my dad had cancer, and he asked me for one favor. I had to go to his friend’s beef cattle farm and help him for the day. It turns out his friend was also a veteran. This was my dad’s way of connecting me with support, with someone who understood what I was going through before he was gone.”

Through this experience, Marvin found a new calling in farming, or what he refers to as “agri-therapy,” which he credits with helping him through his PTSD. Soon after, Marvin’s Briarwood Cattle Farm was born in 2015, honoring his father’s wishes.

Fast forward to 2022 and Marvin is now sharing the healing powers of agriculture with other veterans. With the help of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and other organizations, Marvin and his family recently hosted a group of fellow warriors, friends, and community members on their farm to share in a day of healing.

Agricultural Healing

The morning started with a slow-flow yoga session on the pasture, followed by a hands-on tour of Briarwood Cattle Farm and a meet-and-greet with the animals. With a simple call by Marvin, the herd of cattle made their way across multiple fields, one behind the other, until they peacefully surrounded him and awaited his next command, just like in the military. This powerful moment led to other veterans getting up close and personal with the animals, talking to them and even getting comfortable enough to pet a few. Later, everyone gathered for an intimate afternoon sharing personal accounts of coping with PTSD, suicidal thoughts, survivor’s guilt, and other mental health challenges due to their time in service.

“It’s very therapeutic,” Marvin said. “Being outside with the animals, hearing the sound of the wind, seeing the birds fly above; all that brings you to the point of appreciating life and simply being alive. Days easily pass us by because we are so caught up in other things, truly missing the beauty of common living. That’s what I wanted to provide today — a day of healing, with the help of each other and nature.”

The day empowered the local warrior community to come together and learn about the power of peer support, agriculture, and the many similarities it has with serving in the military. Warriors learned that agriculture is a vehicle for providing communities with food, resources, and even job opportunities. In addition, it provides veterans an opportunity to continue serving their country and people while also empowering them to find healing and purpose again.

“In the military, we don’t really talk about how we are feeling or when something is wrong,” Marvin shared. “We keep it together and pretend everything is always okay. But after that day out on the farm helping my dad’s friend, I came home and openly shared about my feelings. I let go and gave my dad everything he asked for, answered every question in depth. Without realizing it at the time, that is the day my therapy began, and I’m hoping to provide a similar outlet for my brothers and sisters.”

WWP has helped veterans connect for almost two decades because there is value in connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences. According to WWP’s latest Annual Warrior Survey, the likelihood of experiencing PTSD symptoms is 57% lower among warriors who’ve maintained the social support of their military friends.

Contact: — Krissty Andaur - Public Relations, kandaur@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.760.6957

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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