Thanks to Tina Johansson at the News Sun for helping Freedom Farm get the word out.
John Ress is hoping to make the lives of veterans a little brighter with flowers.
Not just any flowers, but roses which will be grown and processed into bouquets on his newly opened Freedom Farm for Vets, 13155 W. Hart St.
“At the Freedom Farm we offer a stress-free environment, and we provide a place for vets to participate in farm activities whether they choose to or not,” said Ress who plans to begin planting roses in May.
A rose might simply be a rose to most folks, but for Ress it equals therapy for vets, many who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The plan is for families and individuals to donate a rose plant (preferably long-stemmed) in memory of a loved one who was a veteran.
Freedom Farm For Vets was profiled by the Lake County News Sun this week. Special thanks to Tina Johansson and photographer Thomas Delany Jr. for taking the time to share our story.
“The owner of a farm at 13155 W. Hart St., is seeking funds to transform the property into a rehabilitation haven for veterans.
John Ress of Trevor, Wis., president of Freedom Farm for Vets, said his idea for the program to help bring a stress-free environment where veterans can come, has been in the works for several years. He hopes to have his Freedom Farm open April 1.
Ress wants to focus on helping soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, inspired by what his grandfather John Balen, Sr. did for his own sons who went off to war, including his uncle, Mike, who served in two major battles during World War II and came home ‘shell-shocked,’ he said.”
John, and his cousins spent many of their younger years at the farm working alongside their Uncles, Fathers and Mothers. The Balen family went out of the mink business in the mid sixties but the farm remained. Uncle Mike continued spending his free time on the farm raising any animal he felt like and turned them all into pets with names. Reserved only for his pets, his favorite saying was “Who Loves Ya?”
Over time he started gardening on a larger scale now that the space was available. His sister and her husband who was also a combat veteran lived in the farmhouse with their two daughters. Uncle George was quite the gardener with his straw hat and his corncob pipe resting his chin on the handle of his hoe and gazing across his lush vegetable gardens. One time when John was about ten he asked Uncle George when was doing his gazing “What ya thinking about?” George replied, “How peaceful it is here.”
The farm started to take shape with the building of a farmhouse. Sometime during this process they found time to shovel out a road west one mile to the farm – now called Beach Road. To this day the kids in the family hear all kinds of funny stories about those early days. Grandpa and Uncle Mike were working hard on the farm and the farm was working on them. All this continued until the farm was somewhat complete and they started up a small time mink operation called Midwest Furriers.
After the war the four brothers came home with memories that would forever change their lives. They lost their mother as well as many of their childhood friends. Uncle Mike had it the worst. He suffered many sleepless nights and would eventually be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The family doctor told Grandpa that he would keep an exam room open any time Uncle Mike needed him. “Just bring him in”, is what the doc said.
That’s when Grandpa bought the farm land. Maybe he thought that if he could keep Uncle Mike busy and surrounded him with family he could somehow work through it all.
Image Credit: A cavalry weapons troop moves from the beach past splintered trees and fires caused by the heavy bombardment preceding their landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Creative Commons 2.0 Generic from otisarchives2 photostream.
World War II took four of the five Balen brothers to battles in Europe and Japan. Mike’s company took him to Leyte and Okinawa, Nick was at the Battle of the Bulge, John was in Australia and Matt was going to be sent to Normandy. However, the sudden death of their mother prevented Matt from accompanying his unit to Normandy and was allowed home for the funeral. Over the years the war took its toll. Battlefields and service in all branches took the lives of other family members and future brother-in-laws.