WAPWALLOPEN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Veterans can struggle with life outside of the military and readjusting to society, but a new program that started just a few years ago has an unconventional method to help: Bees.
Though this may sound scary to some, it’s all part of a program that strives to help veterans find a new lease on life. Veterans struggling with PTSD or just reacclimating to society can be found.
“So in 2020 we held our first class at a veteran-owned farm, Forever Heart Farm in Moon Township out near the Pittsburgh Airport. We had six hives and seven veterans who were part of that first cohort,” said Michael Brooker, coordinator of Bee Boot Camp.
Before the veterans get hands-on with bees, they first go through an educational college course that doesn’t sting their wallet.
“They’re able to take Michigan State University’s beekeeping program heroes to hives. It’s free for veterans to sign up, they estimate it would be like 1500 dollars to get that part of the education,” explained Brooker.
Then it’s on to Bee Boot Camp. The program has grown and now includes this class at Keiner’s Apiary, where each veteran has a different story.
“I’m retired retired. I retired from the military, and I retired from corporate America. I decided I want to do something,” said Collins Halstead of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania.
Halstead already has his own bees at home and loves every second of it.
“I figured the more I know about bees, it’ll help me. Everybody will say you study your bees, but they do what they do,” stated Halstead.
Leaving the military can be a challenge for veterans. This program helps them find new motivation.
“A lot of us feel or get to a point where we feel like we have no purpose. This here also helps us to get up and there’s something for us to take care of. Because we’re so used to taking care of troops and being in the military and being on time getting up in the morning. This gets me up in the morning,” explained Halstead.
The program welcomes anyone interested from advanced beekeepers to those just starting out.
“Because I don’t have bees yet myself but I want to stay in tune until I can get my own bees, and work with the bees. And also it kind of helps with me at work and stuff too,” explained Tammy Fornwald of Numidia, Pennsylvania.
The buzzing bees can bring a sense of peace and purpose.
“It makes me have to slow down, it makes me have to go into I guess like a safe space. Where you have to move slow so that the bees stay calm. It’s just relaxing and things,” described Fornwald.
Whether or not they get involved with bees, they want other veterans to see that you can find purpose and direction outside of the military.
“I would encourage veterans out there, get involved with something. Bees is a great thing to get involved with,” said Halstead.
“You know we have veterans from different generations, but they all seem to bond over their common experience. That’s very beneficial too,” described Brooker.
For more information on bee boot camp, visit Keiner’s Apiary’s website.