ALASKA — As the world marked the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks earlier this month, Samaritan’s Purse continues to strengthen the marriages of wounded military veterans and spouses who’ve sacrificed so much to defend the freedoms we enjoy.
The September 11 attacks are what led many to armed service, which included combat deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world in the War on Terror. Countless veterans returned from battle with both visible and invisible injuries, and those wounds of war have affected many marriages and families.
Since 2012, Samaritan’s Purse has welcomed over 1,500 military couples into their Operation Heal Our Patriots family. Through the project, they bring wounded veterans and their spouses to Alaska for a week of chaplain-led, Biblically based marriage enrichment training and once-in-a-lifetime adventures alongside other military couples.
After Alaska, couples have access to their lifelong Family Care ministry that includes an annual reunion, local training and fellowship events, ongoing access to regional chaplains, and continuing connection to Key Leader couples and fellow Alaska alumni. Couples also have the opportunity to serve on disaster relief deployments through their Team Patriot program.
Margaret Bartlebaugh – Samaritan’s Purse:
Operation Heal Our Patriots is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that helps wounded veterans and their spouses. We help them with marriage enrichment and partner with them for life. Veterans come out here to Alaska for one week to experience God’s glorious creation, and they get to really focus on the relationship with their spouse.
Franklin Graham – President & CEO, Samaritan’s Purse:
One of the great debts that we owe as a nation is to our military families. We’re thankful for them, and we just feel that this is a little way that we can help them, and serve them, and say thank you. The military couples that we bring, of course, have been wounded. These wounds take years, or maybe even a lifetime, for healing.
Ed Arentz – Samaritan’s Purse:
They are taken on excursions where we fish or go hiking. They have retired military chaplains here who counsel them and give marriage classes.
Carlina & Mark Smith – Sergeant, US Army; Sergeant, US Army:
I say the real blessing in all of this, aside from seeing God’s creation, is really the gems that we’re getting in the workshops. Being counseled by veterans, and being around other veteran couples, there’s a level of understanding here.
Yeah. To be able to take time off solely to concentrate on us has been something that, you know, it’s life-changing.
Jamie & Jesse Schroeder – Master Sergeant, USAF, Ret.:
I am a retired Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I went to Iraq, came back a monster. I messed up my back, and mental health took a turn. Started dealing with that on my own like I think most men would, trying to figure out the problem and solve it themselves by heavily drinking.
When he came home, there was a lot of walking on eggshells, trying to figure out, how do I talk to him and actually get across?
I snapped, and then ended up in the back of a cop car, handcuffed, and in the mental ward.
It’s hard to find somebody, just like a counselor or a doctor, that you can trust and confide in and who understands you. For some reason, when I walked in the first day, it just kind of clicked.
It’s been incredible to sit next to other spouses and know that they’re not going to judge you for continuing to fight for your marriage, even though it sometimes feels like there’s no way you can win.
I got a turn to belief and trust that there is God and Jesus and that He will save me. I want to make that change, and there’s no better place than here.
We have the privilege this morning of seeing how God has worked in the lives of these five couples, as they come to renew their marriage vows before God and before you. Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that in Me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
This is where it’s going to start. It’s the right time and the right place, leaving all the hate and anger that I’ve been carrying around for the last, at least 16 years.
Let go of the burden, it’s not yours anymore. Feel the relief.
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Operation Heal Our Patriots gives wounded veterans and their spouses the opportunity for spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment. Couples participate in Biblically based seminars that help strengthen their relationships with God and others and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation with outdoor activities at our Alaskan wilderness lodge. We continue to support these men and women after their initial stay, keeping their spiritual needs and marriages a priority.
CONTACT: Kaitlyn Lahm, firstname.lastname@example.org