Local military veteran hopes to help others suffering from PTSD through gardening

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-20 07:01:17-04

Fireworks, bonfires, squirt guns — all sound like harmless summer fun, but for some military veterans, it can mean something entirely different. Fireworks can be especially triggering for individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows about 11-20 out of every 100 veterans suffer from PTSD and it’s estimated 22 veterans a day commit suicide.

“Certain smells and sounds will take me back, fireworks are really hard this time of year," said Leo Kelly, an army veteran from Desert Storm, who wants to change those statistics around. 

His wound is, like many, severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but his remedy, adapt and overcome.

It's one of the first things Kelly learned in the military and he's used it to find a way to get himself more grounded and wants to help others, like him, find their roots as the seasons in their lives change.

“It's peaceful, it's doing something with your hands, doing something with your mind, getting your mind off of everything," he said.

That's Kelly's vision for the three acres of land he just bought in Mogadore.

Understanding PTSD and treatment

His plan is to provide a place where veterans who suffer from PTSD and other mental illnesses can come to garden.

“It's just we have to do something about it to try to stop it," Kelly said.

When he returned home after 6 years serving in the military, he brought back the unwanted souvenir of a severe case of PTSD. Gardening and woodworking helped him gain control.

Last summer, he lost a fellow soldier to suicide and that's when he knew he had to do something.

His wife, Polly Kelly, says the summer months in the past have been most difficult, but through gardening, she's seen his growth.

"I learned from him the term adapt and overcome, and that's a powerful thing I think because he's done it since it's service... And he's living, not surviving, he's living," she said.

He hopes to have dozens of garden beds and veterans to tend to them by next Spring.