Franklin Graham describes our new project to help share God's love with injured military heroes and their spouses
Our nation recently passed a tragic milestone in the War on Terror. More than 48,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces have now been wounded in defense of our freedom since the 9/11 attacks. Many of these brave men and women return home with terrible physical and emotional scars.
The road to recovery is often long, and for many the scars of war remain with them the rest of their lives. The stress can produce many strains on the marriage and family, and unfortunately, many of these marriages do not survive.
Of course, the ultimate healing is spiritual and comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Operation Heal Our Patriots is a ministry that invests in the life of a military couple, bringing them to Samaritan Lodge in Alaska for a week-long retreat focusing on strengthening their marriage, deepening their spiritual walk, and giving them an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful wilderness setting.
Some of these stories hit close to home.
Captain Scott Smiley and my son Edward graduated together from West Point and the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. While Edward was sent to Afghanistan, Scotty was deployed to Iraq.
On April 6, 2005, Scotty came face-to-face with a suicide bomber. The explosion nearly killed him and left him blind. Scotty is a strong Christian, but his injury tested his faith. Through the prayers of his wife Tiffany and their family and friends, Scotty found hope and strength in Christ. Instead of surrendering to his disability, he went on to become the Army’s first blind active-duty officer.
“My hope is in the Lord,” Scotty says. “Every day, I must choose to embrace the life He gave me. The first thing I will see when I get to heaven is Christ’s face. That gets me through the hard times.”
Scotty’s testimony not only inspires me, but also challenges all of us to do all we can for those who have sacrificed so much for us.
That’s why Operation Heal Our Patriots focuses on sharing God’s healing love with wounded service personnel and their spouses. During their stay in Alaska, our camp chaplain, Captain Jim Fisher, USN (Ret.), will share daily devotions and lessons from God’s Word to help strengthen their marriages. Captain Fisher and General Jim Walker, USMC (Ret.), bring great leadership to direct our ministry to these brave men and women.
When the couples return home, we will work to connect them with a local church to help them continue their spiritual growth. We also plan on conducting seminars during the year at different locations, including the Billy Graham Training Center (The Cove) in Asheville, North Carolina.
This month, I will be speaking at the dedication ceremonies for Samaritan Lodge Alaska. Over the course of this summer, we’ll have the opportunity to minister to almost a hundred couples. One veteran has a bullet still in his head. Another had a leg amputated. Others were maimed by grenades or IEDs—improvised explosive devices. Many suffer from the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
With the war winding down, it’s easy to forget the sacrifice these young men and women have made. Most are in their early twenties. There are a number of organizations that work with wounded service members and they do a great job, but Operation Heal Our Patriots is the only one that focuses on couples and marriage.
Friend, we owe a great debt to these men and women. The least we can do is to offer this retreat at no cost to them. Samaritan’s Purse covers all the expenses, and you can be part of making this possible through your prayers and support. We want to help as many as we can to experience the healing power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who still bears the scars of the cross. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV).