A week in Alaska with Operation Heal Our Patriots helps a military couple rescue their marriage.
John and Jeanette Youngbloom stood hand in hand on the shores of Lake Clark, looked each other in the eyes, and following the lead of Chaplain Jim Fisher, recited vows of recommitment to each other and to God.
Then, Jeanette read her own set of promises to her husband.
“I vow to cast off the demons of anger and unforgiveness,” she said through tears. “I vow to be your friend. All of the things from our past will not haunt us. I will do everything I can to please you and honor you as my life-long friend.”At the beginning of Week 4 of the Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season, there was virtually no chance that the Youngblooms would reconcile and rededicate their marriage. They were on the verge of separating when they arrived in Port Alsworth, Alaska.
“We had exhausted everything we knew to try,” Jeanette said. “It was time to just separate because we knew it wasn’t going to get better. We weren’t talking. We were just yelling and being snarky, making snide remarks. Our daughter had started to develop a nervous habit because of our dysfunction. We recognized her nervous habit and knew it was us, and that just made us fight more because we blamed each other.
“When we knew this was coming up, I said if anything it will tell us how to communicate better so when we do separate at least we’ll do it amicably.”
Their problems were brought on by the injuries sustained by John, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, during six combat deployments. He sustained numerous IED blasts from 2004 to 2008. He has constant nerve pain, and severe back and neck pain. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a Traumatic Brain Injury that cause short- and long-term memory loss.
“We came here pretty broken up,” he said. “We had a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, we had problems in our marriage due to that and the PTSD. We were wallowing in our own self-destructive behavior. Everything that we were trying was just not working. We needed a paradigm shift to keep moving forward.”
The shift happened as God began to work in their lives. As the week went on, they participated together in activities such as fishing, bear watching, and kayaking. But it was the marriage enrichment classes that are the cornerstone of Operation Heal Our Patriots that made the difference, giving them the tools to communicate, reconcile, move past the pain and hurt, and turn everything over to God.
“This week helped us work on our issues and brought things to light that we needed to work on and push forward in our relationship,” John said. “We basically didn’t know how to get out of our pain, get out of our struggles, when all we needed was to give our lives up to the Lord.”
The week in Alaska helped Jeanette see past her husband’s issues and caused her to examine her role in their marriage.“As we went to the classes, one by one I was opening up a little bit more to my responsibility,” she said. “I stopped looking at what he’s done, and started looking at what I’ve done. I’ve been focused just on me and what I felt and what I’ve been through. It was my second nature, just to be angry and unforgiving and resentful. Do I really want to not be with him? No. I want to not be angry, I want to not be hateful and resentful and unforgiving. When I identified it, then I was able to see him for the person he is. I do love him, and care for him.”
John and Jeanette arrived in Alaska on the verge of divorce. They headed back home with a fresh start, knowing they still have work to do but optimistic about the future.
“I came here with no hope,” Jeanette said. “I had lost love, I had lost hope, and I was losing faith. When I saw that there is hope, my faith has been reestablished and I found love through that.”
The Youngblooms were one of four couples to publically rededicate their marriages on Friday. They included Kevin and Adrienne Snow, who were also baptized in the chilly waters of Lake Clark.
Adrienne came to faith in Christ Monday night, after the first full day at Samaritan Lodge.“We were talking to Chaplain Dan (Stephens) and his wife (Linda),” Adrienne said. “The conversation started at about 9 o’clock. At 10:50, in the little VIP room, I decided to dedicate my life to Christ and save myself and bring him into my heart and my home and our marriage. It was such a profound moment for me. It was amazing. And my husband rededicated himself. I can’t even put it into words what that moment was like.”
Kevin, now medically retired after serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was injured when he was knocked unconscious by a mortar round in Iraq. He suffers from PTSD and TBI, which cause anxiety and depression.
“I’ve never reconnected with my wife since Iraq until this week,” he said. “We’re sharing laughs, sharing memories. Just being able to come here, to get out of our everyday lives, this is so amazing to me, so life-changing. I honestly believe God brought me out here to rededicate my life. More importantly, He brought my wife out here to come to faith in Jesus as her savior.”
Chad and Carina Evans also felt that their week in Alaska was a divine appointment.
Chad suffers from PTSD caused by serving in combat as a lance corporal in the Marines. He is medically retired because of the severity of the condition. He saw a Greta Van Susteren special about Operation Heal Our Patriots on the Fox News Channel last year, and thought it was what he and Carina needed.“The first thing that caught my attention was fishing and remote Alaska,” he said. “And then to see that they were really focusing not just on the individual soldier or Marine or wounded veteran, they were really trying to help the couples. We were struggling. This last year we’ve been on the cusp of a lot of unknowns. It just felt like it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Their goal was to reconnect, to feel that they were working together as a unit. By the end of the week, they felt they accomplished that.
“It’s amazing that in (five) days I feel we’ve come a long ways,” Carina said. “This put us back on the same page, on the same team. When we go home, we can pull out those cards from when we were here and say remember what we talked about, remember how we felt, remember those things that we learned? Let’s use that.”