Earlier this month, a young woman reached out to Freedom Alliance for help with her senior project.
Jessica Kreger attends a public charter school, Franklin Academy, in Wake Forest, North Carolina. For her school’s special assignment, she wanted to give military veterans access to equine therapy.
“This has just just fascinated me,” Jessica said, “since I came upon the idea of using horses to help people with PTSD. From what I have researched so far, it has been wildly successful, which is extremely exciting.”
Jessica has seen it happen, and she’s captivated by the idea, “how an animal so big could provide so much comfort so fast to someone who’s never even touched one before.”
Horses are by nature intuitive animals, and this unique therapy has shown the intrinsic benefits of coupling a horse with a rider. An almost always instant bond between the pair opens up a space for communication and healing. Jessica knows this from experience.
She asked Freedom Alliance to find some veterans open to the idea, while Jessica organized the ride through a nearby farm specializing in equine therapy. Four riders agreed to participate.
Ed served in the Marine Corps and National Guard. In 2004, when he was serving with his unit in Iraq, he lost his left leg during an attack of small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Geoffrey is a Marine with 12 years of service and four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jason was a combat medic with the Third Infantry Division, which deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2005. There he was wounded by a blast while on patrol.
Tom served 18 years in the Marine Corps and National Guard. His unit lost 19 men during their 2004-2005 deployment to Iraq; Tom came home with injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
These servicemen met Jessica and her parents at the horse farm in Louisburg, North Carolina, where they groomed and saddled their mounts. A light rain turned to a heavy downpour once on the trail, but fortunately the weather was warm, and the rain let up after a few minutes.
With Jessica in the lead, the troop rode for two hours, wet clothes notwithstanding. The rain shower didn’t diminish their good humor, nor the appreciation for the beauty of the land, the warmth and decency of the animals, and the compassionate vision of a high-school student.
“I had thought the veterans would connect with the horses,” Jessica told us, “but never did I think they would connect on such a deep level. I saw every one of the veterans talk to the horse while they rode, and it usually takes years before someone will start talking to the horse. And yet…in mere minutes, they were talking and laughing with the horse. It was incredible to watch this take place.”
The vets were equally impressed. Ed later wrote to Jessica about his time in combat and what her efforts meant to him.
“If my guess is right, you were probably in first grade at that time in my life… Your service is very humbling to me.”
He continued, “I know this must seem like a small trail ride to you… Please know, I truly believe the little things are extremely valuable, especially when you give your time. We can’t earn time. We don’t know how much we have, so when I see someone spend their time on me and my fellow veterans, I hold those people in high regard.”
After the ride, Jessica gave each serviceman a horseshoe and a paracord survival bracelet, which she made
Obviously, the regard is mutual.
From all of us at Freedom Alliance: thank you, Jessica, for your heart for those who serve. Don’t ever lose that passion, and don’t ever stop giving. Like Ed said, it’s the little things and your time that make a difference.