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NEWS | June 28, 2018

“Bee” cause team work helps soldiers

By MaryTherese Griffin U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Tim Doherty has seen his share of action. The G-9 for the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) not only helps injured Soldiers — he was one. Over a 30 year career, Doherty has worked as a medical evacuation helicopter pilot in either the Army Reserve or Army National Guard, completed two deployments: Iraq in 2006-2007 as an Aeromedical Evacuation Officer for the 3rd Medical Command, and Afghanistan in 2015 - 2016 as the Deputy Surgeon for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Special Operations Component Command. 

During a deployment while assisting a medical evacuation, Doherty tore his bicep and damaged a rotator cuff. The injury occurred in August, but Doherty did not want to leave theater. He soldiered on in pain until the following April when his replacement arrived which compounded the injury. Doherty had surgery after returning from deployment and was assigned to the Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion for four months. His time to focus on his recovery at the WTB afforded him the opportunity to visit his sister. It’s a visit that was life changing. 

“While on my first leave, I visited my sister’s farm where she kept bees and after working them one time I knew I wanted to keep honeybees,” said Doherty.

His new found purpose, beekeeping, helped him through his surgery and with his transition from active duty. Beekeeping became such a passion of his that he created a non- profit on his property in Dunwoody, Georgia.

“I spent the next year building Doc's Healing Hives and raising money to help other veterans learn the craft of beekeeping. I purchased my first hive in September 2016, incorporated Doc's in January 2017 and conducted Doc's first all veteran beekeeping course in April of 2018,” Doherty said. This timeframe allowed him to establish Doc’s Healing Hives and its mission to help Soldiers and veterans overcome physical and mental challenges and help them reintegrate into their communities with purpose.

U.S. Army veteran Chris Dorsey, who served in the Army from July 2001 to February 2005 and is working on handling his post-traumatic stress, graduated from the course at Doc’s Healing Hives. Dorsey says he was pleasantly surprised how beekeeping has helped his recovery. 

Dorsey, who opened his own farm not too far from Doherty’s called Warrior Farms, says sharing beekeeping with other Soldiers in recovery and seeing them walk away with a purpose is worth it. “For me I’m more of an animal person as opposed to insects, but when Tim introduced me to the bees, the bees have become one of my favorite parts of the farm,” Dorsey said.

Doherty, who suits up in old out of service military uniforms to look more like nature to his bees, tells his students if you care for your bees they will care for you by providing you with up to 100 lbs. of honey. It can take up to two years and there is a 50 percent chance your bee colony will collapse. You have to know how to deal with pests, diseases, swarms and low food source for the bees. 

“It isn't like you just get the bees and then get honey, it takes time, patience and effort. Each veteran who has completed the program I know is up for the task, the comments and pictures they share are amazing. The goal is not only to teach them how to be a beekeeper, but help them transition back into their own community through their local beekeeping association and even create a new network of friends,” said Doherty.

Doherty hopes to expand his farm beyond Georgia and help more wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans learn beekeeping. “The most rewarding moments for me is handing the veterans the certificates when they complete the course, handing them their bees and watching them interact with each other and their own families around their bee hives,” Doherty said. “I know that what we are doing is having a meaningful and sometimes life changing impact on a veteran and their family. In a perfect world I wish I had the ability to replicate the Surgeon General's 1917 beekeeping course for every veteran who wanted it, but until then we will keep working hard to support as many as we can,” he added.

Doherty still serves in the Army Reserve and as an Assistant Principal at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, Georgia. His true passion is for the Soldiers and his bees and he hopes his passion will colonize with the masses.

“It costs $500 per hive that is given to each veteran, it is a tremendous gift, but pales in comparison to giving the veteran a new purpose, hope or a vocation that they can use to help support themselves or their family.”