Veterans find peace and serenity at Three Hearts Farm in PlymouthBy Dave Kindy | Photography by Jack Foley
While the war may be over for some veterans, the sights and sounds of combat are never completely gone. For individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), haunting memories and overwhelming fears can be triggered at any time. Three Harts Farm in Plymouth aims to help former members of the military deal with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other combat-related injuries by providing a peaceful oasis for veterans and their family members.
Located on Beaver Dam Road, Three Harts Farm is a place where veterans come together to share a smile, get a hug, stroll along quiet garden paths and begin to put their lives back together. It is just one example of the extensive outreach provided by the Nathan Hale Foundation, a Plymouth-based nonprofit organization that offers support and services for men and women who served their country.
During the growing season, the farm – which is only three-quarter’s of an acre – is packed with vegetables, herbs and flowers. Veterans can help with the tilling, learn farming techniques and take home fresh produce. And on Saturdays, the community comes together for cookouts and camaraderie.
“We’re trying to do something that no one’s ever really done before,” says the foundation’s founder Christopher Hart. “You can’t survive PTSD alone. But if we do it together as a family, people have better results.”
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, Hart felt compelled to do something to serve his country. Too old to enlist in the military, he decided to help veterans instead. Hart quit his job in quality control and began a quest to open the first veterans outreach center on the South Shore. It would take him several years and most of his savings (at one point, he was living in his car) but Hart was able to fulfill his dream.
“I am a deeply religious person,” he says. “Sometimes, I didn’t know where the money or help would come from next. I put my faith in God and prayed He would deliver. And He usually did.”
Today, the Nathan Hale Foundation operates outreach centers in Plymouth and Middleboro. The group serves 750 veterans in nine towns and that doesn’t include family members they help too. The foundation offers free transportation to Veteran Administration hospitals and other treatment centers, operates two food pantries, assists with job searches and more.
Hart and his wife, Diane, started the farm in 2015, as a way to help veterans heal. He named it in honor of his grandfather, who fought in World War II and was killed on Thanksgiving Day, 1944, and his two great-uncles who also served in the war.
“A Hart has served in every war in this country since the French and Indian War,” he says. “I just wanted to follow in the family tradition. This was the path that was open to me, so I took it.”
It cost about $500,000 to get the farm up and running. Most of the money, materials and services were donated by local businesses. The site also has access to 75 acres of nearby woodlands, paths and ponds. “We want to enhance the services right here in our own backyard,” says Hart. “There are over 50 miles of trails branching out from here. It’s even prettier than Myles Standish State Forest.”
A Path to Recovery
The farm is visited by veterans of numerous wars. Some have psychological problems while others have physical issues, such as lost limbs or restricted mobility. They all share a common bond and the need to connect with fellow veterans.
Take Vinny Buotte, for example. He served in the United States Army in Iraq. He worked in convoy security and operated a gun truck. Buotte witnessed several IED (improvised explosive device) explosions and lost friends in combat. His experiences left him with PTSD. Now that he has recovered, he tries to help other veterans.
“I volunteer Tuesday afternoons,” says Buotte. “Mostly, I work with Vietnam veterans with PTSD. A place like this is important for our recovery.”
Herbert Cole of Norwell was a waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator in World War II. He flew 47 missions and was shot down once. He regularly visits the NHF offices to have coffee with other vets and recently visited Three Harts Farm for the first time. “I will be coming more,” says Cole. “It’s really nice.”
It’s not uncommon for Hart to work 18-hour days. But serving veterans is his passion, purpose and spiritual path. “I try to take Sunday off for religious reasons, but I’m usually working here,” says Hart. “I think God would want me here. This is my church.”
For more information on the Nathan Hale Foundation, visit thenathanhaleveteransoutreachcenter.com