For This Veteran, Planting Is Therapy And Community Service

Returning home after over 26 years in military service was difficult for Diego Hammet. So, he turned to gardening for his new purpose in life — that and being a good father to his young daughter.

Diego Mafnas Hammett served in the military for almost three decades before returning to his wife and firstborn daughter in Northern California. He survived four shots during the Vietnam War. As a paratrooper, he was on tours in Laos, Cambodia, Panama and Korea.

Returning home after over 26 years in military service was difficult for Hammet. He fully devoted himself to planting all kinds of different vegetables and fruit in his garden. Planting was his new purpose aside from being a good father to his young daughter Felice.

Even now, at the age of 75, Hammet spends every day in his backyard taking care of his plants. Large fruit trees with oranges, tangerines and lemons provide shade, while small seedlings that soon will become eggplants, peppers and onions are growing in garden beds.

Planting is for Hammet a way of therapy. After retiring from the military, he said he didn’t talk about what happened in the war. He was all locked into himself and spent time outside with his plants. In the meantime, he found a way to talk to therapists and others. However, his fruit and vegetable garden is still his safe space, and planting, pruning and watering his plants is part of his daily routine.

Hammett learned planting at a very young age. He was born in Guam, a U.S. island territory in Micronesia in the Western Pacific, and lived there until his family moved to the U.S. when he was 12. He said that his family was very poor and grew different plants and raised livestock to cover their own needs and to sell their produce at a small roadside stand. Planting is a craft that has accompanied Hammett his entire life that he nowadays teaches his own grandchildren.

While planting gives Hammett personal peace, he also does it to help out in his community. In the face of inflation, food prices have significantly increased in California. Even before that, fruits and vegetables were oftentimes more expensive than processed food, making it challenging for low-income families to integrate enough nutritious food into their diets. Through his involvement in different congregations in and around Milpitas, Hammett knows of many people who are struggling with the high costs of living in California.

When he harvests his fruits and vegetables in the summer, Hammett keeps some for his family, but gives most of it to friends and people in his community, who couldn’t afford to buy it. He also goes to food pantries to pick up food, which he then distributes in his community to help others.

Hannah holds a bachelor's degree in social science from Humboldt-University in Berlin, Germany. She is passionate about society and politics and chose social science to be a journalist who reports knowledgeable about sociopolitical topics. Hannah worked at Humboldt University as a research assistant to enhance her data science skills and be able to write data-driven stories. Her interest in international politics brought her for half a year to the EU's capital - Brussels - where she interned at the central press office of the European Commission. She supported the digital economy and innovation team in various press announcements and communications about policy proposals by the Commission. In her free time, Hannah enjoys spending active time outside in the nature and discovering new places. At other times, she likes to sing, play the piano or saxophone.

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