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Horses help Army veteran overcome suicide and trauma

Andrew Kintgen recalls his three tours in Iraq as a cavalry scout and how he dealt with thoughts of suicide and PTSD
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Memorial Day is approaching and while many can enjoy freedom this weekend, this a time to remember our military men and women who died while serving our country. Local veteran Andrew Kintgen says this holiday is often taken for granted.

“Americans are privileged to live here and be American. Just look at why people move to the United States from another country. They move here for a reason—freedom. The people that have passed away that served their country, it’s those people that provided that freedom for people to live the way that they’re living now.”

Kintgen has deployed to other countries where freedom does not exist. He has seen things that have changed him forever.

In 2006 Kintgen joined the United States Army as a Calvary Scout, specifically to fight for his country. Less than six months after joining, Kintgen was deployed to do just that, but it came with a price. “I got hit by an EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile). My truck commander Sgt David was slumped over sideways and didn’t have a head,” recalled Kintgen.

Kintgen served three tours in Iraq but the battle did not begin there. The fight to survive started at an early age when his mother gave him up. “Her and my father got into drugs and weren’t fit to be parents at the time. Bad household growing up, my alcoholic stepfather beat us, and bad stuff was happening all the time. I have two younger brothers and they ended up in foster homes.”

A broken childhood coupled with the sights of war overseas left Kintgen traumatized by the time he got out of the military in 2012. “I was really at the lowest part of my life. I was like, ‘Okay I’m done; I’m just going to go kill myself now.’ There’s no point in living, so it’s done, there’s no climbing back up the ladder from here.”

Kintgen went to New Freedom Farm in Buchanan, Virginia after being referred by a friend. He was partnered with a wild mustang named Watson. Kintgen recalls the first time he met the owner Lois. “I told her that I was suicidal and that a lot had happened in my life recently. I told her that I wanted to come here and asked what I needed to do. She actually gave me a hug. I didn’t know that conversation, that hug, would put me in a good spot in life. I was back on track and I stayed here for seventeen months, day in day out, dark to dark,” said Kintgen.

Kintgen still volunteers at the farm and is still passionate about the magic that happens at New Freedom Farm. “It’s a unique and powerful thing that happens here with the horses and the veterans.”

For information on New Freedom Farm visit newfreedomfarm.org/ or call (540) 855-1158

For help on veteran suicide visit stopveteransuicide.org or call 844-907-1338

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