Patrick Outlaw performed three tours of duty with the U.S. Army, traveling to Kuwait, Bosnia, and Afghanistan during his time with the military. But after he got done, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and he found it difficult to work indoors and be around other people.
Yet that didn’t stop the Norman, OK, 39-year-old from finding something else to help him recover. After working for the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City, he started his own lawn care business, Wounded Warrior Lawn Care in April.
His job at the VA Medical Center had begun to take a toll on him emotionally, as other patients recounted their trauma to him all day. This led Outlaw to go into medical retirement, but he still needed supplemental income, which led him to start his business.
Outlaw insists, though, that it’s not just about taking care of lawns — it’s something that has helped save his life.
His own PTSD can force him into isolation and lead to suicidal thoughts, he explained to the Moore American. In the past, Outlaw used alcohol to cope, though he has since recovered.
“I know that in order to stay out of my head, I had to find something that makes me work hard and just keeps me busy,” he said of his business.
And by choosing lawn care, Outlaw is also providing a vital service to homeowners and the environment. Unless using organic lawn services, homeowners typically treat their lawns with a mixture of fertilizers and pesticides. The latter is used to control insects, weeds, diseases and other pests and can be either man-made or naturally derived.
A study from Ohio State University found that of the 80 million lawns in the U.S., at least half aren’t getting the care they need with regard to fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticide treatments. These treatments, says the study, help to trap carbon and other greenhouses gases and actually curb pollution.
But Outlaw’s work doesn’t just contribute to the environment — it’s also crucial to his mental health. That’s a good thing considering that about one-third of returning soldiers are diagnosed with PTSD, and just 40% of that one-third will seek help.
Outlaw has an MBA and the experience of working with veterans, but he says he much prefers what he does now, and his friends gave him support where he needed it.
“Through recovery from alcoholism I’ve developed a strong network of friends who pretty much helped bring me back from that,” he said. “I told them what I was suffering from and how I was suffering and they just kind of gathered around me.”
In the future, Outlaw would like to grow his business to help other veterans find work, too.