NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 4, 2017 —
The harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few.
That is when Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Weintraut, a recruiter and career counselor here, had an idea. He had just spent the last year helping to recruit future sailors from around Kingsport, Tennessee, and now he thought about recruiting them for a more local mission: helping to harvest the community garden.
Weintraut knew the garden well. Since he lives with his wife in an apartment in Kingsport with no space for planting, he used a raised bed in the community garden that he tended to once a week. His wife had found the garden and signed him up for a free planting bed where he grew cabbage, broccoli and peppers “so hot they make your face hurt.”
A Community of Gardeners
And while he was there, he found more than fresh produce and a chance to be outdoors. He found a community of people, many of them decades older than himself, but knowledgeable and willing to teach him. He learned from master gardeners and gained experiences that he couldn’t find in a book.
Then the harvest came. A nearby tomato plant that towered 10 feet in the air fell onto his plot and he could see the arriving bounty would just be too much for many of his neighbors in garden. So he asked for volunteers. Five future sailors answered the call to help the gardeners and clean up the excess plant material from a year of growth.
For Weintraut, a native of Rock Island, Illinois, it was a joy to see young people from his community helping out an older generation.
“There are some people that just can’t do what they once could,” he said. “Too many younger people fail to get out their house and help others as much as they can. People get stuck on their TV, phones or Facebook. But the future sailors came out to the community and helped. They were the youngest people there. Everyone else was 45 and older except for me.”
Weintraut said the future sailors were surprised by the gratitude people showed them for the service that they were ready to embark upon in the upcoming months.
“Even though they haven’t stepped foot into boot camp yet, the gardeners were thanking them for making the decision to join the Navy. They had to opportunity to talk to prior-service members who are now gardeners and they saw how appreciative the people were to have the help,” he said.
Now that the planting beds are cleaned, Weintraut is learning how to grow winter crops. But in a way, he already knows how. Helping young people find direction for a career requires time and tending, and in the case of the Navy, some water.
Weintraut says this is why he loves recruiting. He became a full-time recruiter a few years ago because of the opportunity it gave him to affect peoples’ futures.
“I really enjoy the fact that I get to help people by giving them a plan and helping them move forward with their life. There aren’t enough people who take an interest in helping others find direction,” Weintraut said. “People are quick to judge, but no one wants to help. However, we strive to do more and help give people a choice.”