Wounded veterans and their spouses receive the support they need through Operation Heal Our Patriots. Our 2016 season opens over Memorial Day weekend.
Operation Heal Our Patriots brings combat-wounded military personnel and their spouses to Alaska for a week of Biblically based marriage enrichment set against the beautiful backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness. As our retired military chaplains and staff minister to participants, we see God bring healing to troubled marriages and salvation to individuals through faith in Jesus Christ.
“The men and women who come through this program have made huge sacrifices for our freedom, and I thank God for them,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “We’re able to minister to these couples, and many come to faith in Christ. We see, week after week, lives changed and marriages salvaged.”
The exciting fifth summer season of Operation Heal Our Patriots runs 16 weeks, from May 29 to September 16, 2016. For the first time, this year’s opening weekend coincided with Memorial Day, as we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Operation Heal Our Patriots participant Army Sergeant Willie Borden raised the flag and then lowered it to half mast.
Every week our staff and volunteers at Samaritan Lodge Alaska will welcome a new group of 10 military couples, each of which include at least one spouse injured in the post-9/11 war on terror.
“If you’ve been wounded, for real, long-term healing, you need a sound foundation,” said Retired Marine Brigadier General Jim Walker who serves as executive director of Operation Heal Our Patriots, which started in 2012. “That foundation has two parts: a strong marriage and a strong faith in Christ. That’s it. That’s the whole program.”
God at Work in the Lives of Veterans and their Spouses
God can do a lot in a week. That’s what Army Specialist John Valdez and his wife Cecilia of Phenix City, Alabama, found out while in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots.At Samaritan Lodge, John and Cecilia heard daily devotions from God’s Word, participated in a series of marriage classes, and enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities together. John, who battles post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures as a result of his combat service in Iraq from 2009-10, received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized in Lake Clark. Cecilia, already a believer, was also baptized and the couple rededicated their marriage to God in a public ceremony.
Cecilia had been sharing the Good News with John and praying for him, but in Alaska everything finally came together for him.
“It was not until we went to Alaska that he understood what I [had been] trying to explain for a long time,” Cecilia said.
“Since then, he’s really been growing in the faith…It’s made a huge difference in our marriage.”
He’s praying, reading the Bible, talking to their pastor, and acting as the spiritual leader in their home. Married since 2008, the couple has a three-year-old daughter and a second child on the way.
Caring for Military Couples Over the Long HaulThrough our unique long-term aftercare program, God continues to work in the lives of couples through Operation Heal Our Patriots well after their week in Alaska. Our staff keep in regular contact with couples over the years, encouraging and supporting them in a variety of ways. We also offer additional training opportunities, including annual reunions.
John and Cecilia attended our reunions in both 2015 and 2016. “This organization really cares for each veteran and for their needs,” Cecilia said at the 2016 reunion held in West Virginia. “We really enjoy coming here and learn a lot.”
John said, “Each step as we go is going to make us a little bit stronger.”
Marine Staff Sergeant Curtis Fowler, injured during combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his wife Jina of Trophy Club, Texas, are another couple whose lives have been transformed by God through the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots. The Fowlers came to Alaska in 2013 and what they learned there saved their marriage, Jina said.
“I could see that person I had fallen in love with,” she said. “I could see my best friend again.”
But that was just the beginning.
In January of 2015, the Fowlers traveled to Austin, Texas, to attend a Fortify Your Marriage weekend, an event designed for Operation Heal Our Patriots alumni. There their souls were saved.“It was the weekend we decided to accept Christ,” Curtis said. “In the sermon on Sunday every question I had [was] answered.”
Now the couple is on the same page spiritually as they rear their two sons. They are growing in faith, studying the Bible, and actively involved in a local church.
“It was a matter of finding the right people to explain it the right way,” Curtis said.
Jina is deeply grateful. “They gave us our life together and with our family,” she said of the Operation Heal Our Patriots team.
Please be in prayer for the 160 military couples scheduled to come to Alaska during the summer of 2016. Pray also for strength for our chaplains and staff as they faithfully serve.
During the first four years of Operation Heal Our Patriots, Samaritan’s Purse welcomed over 526 couples to Alaska, 200-plus individuals made commitments to Jesus Christ, and more than 230 couples rededicated their marriages to the Lord. We look forward to what God will do this year!