Week 12 Operation Heal Our Patriots participants receive tools for God-filled marriages and lives
Mary Young couldn’t help smiling as she watched her husband fly-fishing for Arctic grayling in the churning whitewater below Alaska’s Tanalian Falls.
“I’ve never seen him so happy,” she said.
The Youngs have been married for 13 years, and eight of those Shawn has spent overseas as a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, defending the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“All he’s ever wanted to do is be a Marine,” Mary said.
But multiple battles and post-traumatic stress disorder have taken their toll, and after 18 years, Shawn will retire from the Corps at the end of this month.
So the invitation from Samaritan’s Purse to participate in Operation Heal Our Patriots came at a perfect time for the Youngs. As they considered how their lives are about to change and the choices they face, they made the most important decisions of all. Mary trusted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and Shawn recommitted his life to the Lord. They also rededicated their marriage and were baptized in Lake Clark.
“We had lost our way and moved away from the church,” Shawn said. “I’ve been so tense for so long. I’m looking forward to connecting with my family and Jesus and God.”
Shawn was one of three wounded veterans participating in Week 12 of Operation Heal Our Patriots who plans to become a physical therapist to help others overcome their injuries. Danny Delgado, a retired Army sergeant who came home from Afghanistan with burns, partial deafness, and post-traumatic stress disorder, is another one.
“I want to pay it forward,” Danny said.
He and his wife Elayne also rededicated their marriage while in Alaska.
Lifting the Burden
As the couples enjoyed activities that included fishing, hiking, and watching bears and eagles in two national parks, they also spent much of the week in marriage enrichment classes and in fellowship with other couples. Chaplains challenged them to fight as hard for their marriages as their husbands had fought for our country.
Retired Army Corporal Andrew Paulsen compared the fight to the Bible story in Exodus 17, where Israel was in a hard battle against the Amalekites. Israel won as long as Moses lifted up the staff of God, but when he became tired, he had to depend on others to help. In a similar way, he said, Operation Heal Our Patriots provided the support he and his wife Natalie needed.
“You guys are weight-lifters for all of us,” he said.
One burden that Andrew lightened while in Alaska was his grief for two buddies, Andrew Martinek and Darryn Andrews, who were killed in 2009 in Afghanistan in the same ambush where he and seven others were wounded. Martinek, Andrews, and Pearce went through training together in Alaska, so he felt that this was the perfect place to honor their sacrifice. He took off the metal armband he wore with their names and tacked it to the flagpole at Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
Several veterans expressed thanks to those who support Operation Heal Our Patriots through prayers and donations.
“To know the U.S. is still thankful makes it all worthwhile,” Danny Delgado said.
“This has been the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Eric Pearce, a retired Marines sergeant. “We’re leaving here with a great toolkit for making our life better and our marriage better.”
His wife Brandi rededicated her life to the Lord and was baptized.
“God brought us here,” she said. “He brought us here for a reason. And now I get to give it to our kids.”
Please pray for Week 12 couples as they integrate back into everyday life. Pray that they will rely on God each day for strength. Pray also for the coming week’s couples as they arrive at Samaritan Lodge Alaska and begin their week of marriage enrichment.