The Central Oregon Veterans Ranch restores purpose and spirit to veterans of all ages and eras of war. Veterans share a bond. They understand the inherent sacrifices of their service, ranging from realities of war to the post-military service impact on physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive aspects of health. We don’t take the freedoms secured by these sacrifices lightly. Perhaps the most profound of these sacrifices: moral injury and the loss of innocence.
Our innovative, strengths-based approach is centered on social determinants of health and building community among a diverse population with high rates of disability, post-traumatic stress, chronic self-isolation, socioeconomic instability, and behavioral health challenges. Many of these individuals live in rural communities where access to care and support is limited. The welcoming support of peers experienced at The Ranch reduces self-isolation and loneliness and fosters belonging and feelings of being understood, proven protective factors against the risk of suicide, which tragically remains at 17 veterans every day in the US (US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2022).
We use the platform of a working ranch to draw veterans together in a natural setting around a common purpose: caring for animals, the land, ourselves, and each other. This unique approach promotes organic healing in a setting where nothing is forced or prescribed. Veterans discover a new sense of identity and purpose as they build relationships, find support, learn new skills, and meaningfully contribute to a new mission. There is an innate trust formed because our programs exist outside of the traditional clinical health support system. We use T.R.U.S.T. as an acronym to define our core values of Teamwork, Respect, Unconditional Support, Stewardship and Transparency.
We draw veterans from across the vast rural footprint of Central Oregon, with a focus on Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties. Participants cover a wide age spectrum: from their 20’s-50’s from recent engagements in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, to Gulf War, Vietnam, and Korea era veterans in their 60’s-90’s. The multigenerational warrior camaraderie built around non-stigmatizing peer-driven agricultural programs create authentic connections and rekindle a sense of trust and belonging often lost after leaving the military.