Senior Airman Stone Hazlett and retired Sergeant Chris Hurley have started a local nonprofit, "Operation Frontline Recovery" (OFR), to support their fellow service members in the transition from military to civilian life. The pair are working to establish OFR at a location in Cameron where both active-duty and retired service members who struggling with the military-to-civilian life transition can go to "grow to heal" through therapeutic gardening. With approximately 63,000 military personnel working at nearby Fort Bragg and several thousand veterans settling in the surrounding areas, there continues to be a need for local support and mental health services.
OFR will be a physical location where service members and their families can go to lessen the isolation many may feel when returning from deployment or retiring from the service, Hurley explained. OFR hopes to serve as a “halfway point for people to go to and relate” in order to “smoothly transition back to the ‘real world,’” said Hazlett. To accomplish this, OFR focuses on the simplicity of gardening.
The benefits of gardening are “everything from physical up to emotional,” said Hurley. In addition to getting outside and learning a new skill, service members gain an outlet in which they can, literally, see the fruits of their labor. Both Hurley and Hazlett agree one of the most beneficial parts of OFR will be creating a community connecting service members.
“It’s not only for those on active duty, it’s for those who are left behind as well,” said Hurley. “First and foremost, everything we produce out here will be going either to students here or their families.”
Currently, the group is working on securing funding to purchase 77 acres off OF Cyprus Road in Cameron with plans to build a greenhouse, a small hatchery, and one- to two-man cabins in addition to an administrative and IT building.