Many Thanks To Our Veterans This Veterans Day And Always!
My name is Stephen Thomas. I joined the US Navy in 2003. I served a total of four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was injured in Iraq while performing a mission. Since then, the real battle for me has been overcoming my health limitations and adjusting to civilian life. Due to the extent of my injuries, I am 100% disabled. I felt lost and struggled with PTSD. My nightmares seemed endless and future bleak. In search of a treatment, I started to investigate beekeeping through Hives for Heroes. Hives for Heroes is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help prevent the high suicide rate among veterans through a lifelong hobby in beekeeping. Hives for Heroes provides the training and resources that the members will need to start, keep, and maintain their beehives. I have found that beekeeping makes me feel calm and productive.
I also like sharing my knowledge with other veterans who are struggling with PTSD. As Apiary management of the Crosby, TX yard, I have the responsibility and honor of tending to the hives and all the ladies within. It is difficult at times due to my limited mobility and in need of a mobility scooter but the rewards more than make up for it. There is an old saying to people who have lost loved ones or suffered a trauma, “Tell it to the Bees.” I never fully understood the power behind the quote until I started implementing it into my work. Yes, believe it or not, I do talk to my bees. I tell them all my problems and don’t feel judged by them. It’s very therapeutic watching them dance in the air. They are one unit working towards a common goal. As a Veteran, I can see myself in them. While their goal is the survival of the colony, my goal is saving lives. If I can prevent even one tragic death in my lifetime it makes it all worth it.
Some people may ask, why bees with all the other treatments and animals out there? What makes bees unique? Bees have always had a place in civilization. In ancient Egypt, it was believed the hum bees make activates super hormones they call “Elixirs of Metamorphosis.” Basically, the sound resonates with the cerebrospinal fluid offering protection to the brain. Honey was also commonplace in the military due to its antibacterial properties on wounds. Regardless of where you look throughout history bees are healers. I also decided on bees because, like Veterans, bees are under attack. While us Vets struggle with pain and mental health, bees are suffering due to a lack of resources and invasive pests that come with international trade as well as pesticides and other chemicals used in farming. Our job is helping their colonies through treatments and offering a clean home for them to live in. Supplemental feeding is also required in some cases.
I love how our organization pairs one mentor with one “NuBee” beekeeper in their area. It provides the opportunity for a lifelong friendship to bloom. The comradery and connection with other Vets are just a bonus. I know the dark path we walk when leaving the combat zone behind us is hard, but together, we can overcome any obstacle. Thank you and God Bless.