Advancing National Service

The Exotic Birds and Suffering Veterans That Are Helping Each Other Heal

December 22, 2014
The Exotic Birds and Suffering Veterans That Are Helping Each Other Heal
A military veteran bonds with a rescued bird at the Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary in Los Angeles. Screen capture via CBS Los Angeles
One former soldier says that he's gentler and kinder after spending time at the sanctuary.

The V.A. complex in West Los Angeles boasts an unexpected feature: the Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, which offers nursing care and refuge to exotic birds left without owners.

Veteran Matthew Simmons started the sanctuary, which is funded by donations, after serving in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm. The facility rehabilitates sick or injured birds, and in the process helps troubled vets, too. “If you’re not offered a ledge up, it’s a very deep pit, and there’s lots of guys down there,” Simmons tells NBC 2.

One person benefitting from these beautiful creatures is Coast Guard veteran Lily Love. She suffered from PTSD after her service, prompting to five trips to the V.A. psychiatric ward, but ever since she started spending time at Serenity Park, she’s stayed out of the hospital. Love is now in charge of the kitchen, preparing meals for parrots each day starting at 6 a.m. She says that working with the birds, “takes me out of myself.”

Navy veteran Bob Corell describes the time he spends Serenity Park as his “salvation.” “I think I’m a little kinder. A little gentler than I was before I got here,” he says.

MORE: What Happens When Veterans and Wild Horses Meet Up?