Operation Heal Our Patriots helps bring a marine to faith in Jesus and back together with his family
Marine Staff Sergeant Harold Bean had been burying himself alive for nine years before he finally stopped trying last August. His digging had gotten him nowhere.
Attempts to bury or deny his ongoing physical and emotional pain—stemming from four deployments to Iraq—had proven counterproductive. By stuffing down his grief, he blocked others from helping him. Misplaced anger didn’t help. Prescription medicines could only do so much. Alcohol was a dead end. Counseling by itself was ineffective. Toughing it out didn’t work.
“He was fighting demons inside himself, and I couldn’t help him,” his wife Melinda said. “It was burial after burial.”
Finally, Bean, as he likes to be called, realized he was broken and couldn’t fix himself. The turning point came in Alaska when on the last day of a wilderness retreat through Operation Heal Our Patriots, Chaplain Jim Fisher asked couples how they would respond to Jesus Christ.
“As my wife and I sat there on the couch, it was time for me. Everything was there. His presence was with me,” Bean said. “I gave Him full command over my life. In Alaska I accepted God as my Savior; I became a Christian.”
God’s healing in that moment—actually, over the entire week at Samaritan Lodge Alaska—has changed everything for Bean and Melinda. Chaplain Fisher’s offer to pray for Bean during a nature walk on the first day brought down his guard and opened him up to possibilities of change. The devotions, marriage classes, and talks with the chaplain and his wife, Lori, gave the couple new perspectives on life and marriage. Fishing, bear watching, kayaking, and just relaxing together, surrounded by God’s majestic creation, helped revive positive memories and feelings for each other.
HELP BRING HEALING TO AMERICA’S HEROES: You can help us serve America’s patriots. Please encourage any couples you know with a combat-wounded spouse to apply for Operation Heal Our Patriots. It’s not too late for this summer’s program. Applications are available online.
The entire Operation Heal Our Patriots staff in Alaska demonstrated God’s love to the Beans in tangible ways.
“From the moment we got picked up at the airport, it was the best hospitality we’ve ever gotten,” Melinda said. “Everyone there is the prime example of what a servant should be like, because they were just so genuine and loving. They took us in like we were their own, and that’s how God is.”
Filled with hope and joy in Christ, the couple returned home to North Carolina to start over. Bean became his family’s spiritual leader, committing himself, his wife, and their two children to a local church. He and Melinda, who received Christ while her husband was deployed in 2003 but says her spiritual walk had been “desolate” for years, were baptized in September. They are now reading the Word of God and applying it to their marriage and their parenting.
“I’ve learned to look at him and try to treat him the way I would treat Jesus,” Melinda said.
“If the kids are arguing over something, we can ask what would God do,” Bean said.
In February of this year, at the Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion at the Billy Graham Training Center near Asheville, North Carolina, Bean and Melinda renewed their marriage vows in a touching ceremony led by Chaplain Fisher. It was “the cherry on top” of everything that’s happened in the past year, Bean said.
Rough Road Led Them to God
Anyone who knows the couple’s story can see God has brought remarkable transformation and healing to their lives in recent months.
In 2001, Bean joined the Marine Corps in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I wanted to be one of the ones who run into the face of danger without question for a good cause,” he said.
In 2003, he was among the first Marines on the ground during Operation Iraqi Freedom, joining in the battle of Sufwan Hill just across the border from Kuwait. He was injured in October of that year when a rocket-propelled grenade blew up near him while on foot patrol. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, in addition to damage to his lower back.
Melinda accepted Christ during Bean’s first deployment, but when he returned he didn’t want anything to do with her new faith. Moving between Texas and California, she did not connect with a church and her spiritual life floundered for six years. Bean’s demeanor was changed by his experiences and injuries, and marriage battles ensued.
“This was the beginning of dark times for Bean,” Melinda wrote in an email reflecting on that period.
In 2005 Bean returned to Iraq, where an improvised explosive device (IED) rattled his convoy injuring him and nine other Marines as they made their way from Ramadi to Fallujah. His previous injuries were aggravated and new ones added: neurological damage impairing his depth perception and balance, trauma to his cervical spine, numbness in three fingers on his right hand, and a fully dislocated shoulder.
He served two more deployments in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 into 2008.
“There was a lot of pain associated with those deployments,” Bean said.
But he pushed through, with some help from pain medications. “Each time I came back I was a different man.”
The Beans were then stationed in Hawaii, from where Bean served a noncombat deployment in Okinawa, Japan. Their three-plus years in the Pacific were hardly a paradise. Bean struggled with decreasing mobility—he now uses a cane to walk—and chronic pain, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Unable to break free from the war-zone mentality he maintained to survive his tours in Iraq, he trusted no one. Even when he was home with his family, he wasn’t home. Irritable and easily angered, he was always on edge. Anxiety forced him to avoid public places like restaurants and malls.
“I made it very hard to live with me,” Bean said.
An already rough and rocky marriage hit its darkest, lowest point in 2011. Melinda said that she and Bean “ended their weekends drinking their sorrows away.” They resigned themselves to a divorce—eventually. But as Bean said at the reunion earlier this year, “At the weakest moment, God kept the bond between us.”
By early 2012, the Bean family had moved to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Desperation and new circumstances prompted Melinda to seek a church family, so they began attending worship services not long before attending the Operation Heal Our Patriots retreat. However, Bean had no personal relationship with Christ prior to Alaska and Melinda said her own wake-up call from God came there too.
“I feel like going to Alaska was a new beginning for us,” Melinda said. “After we left we were on fire for the Lord, knowing that there is hope and He is that hope.”
As the Beans grow in faith, they want to help others discover the same life in Christ they have.
Melinda summed up their outlook: “If someone can benefit from our story, all the glory goes to God.”