Sailors Help Veterans with Horse Therapy

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. -- Sailors assigned to USS Constitution helped veterans from Bedford Department of Veteran's Affairs Medical Center groom and handle horses at Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation in Boxford, Mass., July 10.

Windrush Farm is a non-profit organization that specializes in serving veterans and guests that have physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral disabilities.

Windrush Farm encourages interaction with horses through grooming and handling exercises, and the environment on which the 195-acre plot, including farm, is located.

"Interaction and social situations is the most important thing for these veterans," said Amanda Hogan, executive director of Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation. "To have the Constitution Sailors here, teaching and talking to these veterans about themselves, about the horses, about the current military, gives the veterans a link to the present day armed forces. It also gives these younger Sailors a chance to here stories from these veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It's really wonderful to see."

Windrush Farm hosts the veterans from Bedford VA Medical Center and members of the Wounded Warrior Project two times a month for interaction with the horses.

"Volunteering at Windrush Farm is just one example of the many volunteer efforts our Sailors display each and every day," said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Shirley, Constitution's executive officer. "Our outreach to the public over the years is extraordinary, and I am proud of each and every one of them."

Constitution Sailors routinely help other Boston area organizations, such as New England Center for Homeless Veterans, the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts of America, Meals on Wheels and the Stone and Franklin Park Zoos.

In 2012, Constitution Sailors volunteered more than 1,000 hours, earning the gold level President's Volunteer Service Award for the ship.

"Giving back to the community, especially veterans, is very important to me," said Quartermaster Seaman William Gillaspie. "Seeing the faces of the veterans while we were grooming these magnificent animals was heartwarming and special."

Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today's Navy. America's Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.

Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history. Currently, her crew is planning to commemorate bicentennial of the War of 1812 through public demonstrations and educational activities at eight Navy weeks across the U.S. in 2012.

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