Military Couples Start Fresh During Alaska Adventure

June 12, 2018 • United States
Marine Major Bob and Rebecca Schmidt were both saved and baptized during Week Two of Operation Heal Our Patriots. We praise God that five individuals were baptized and four couples rededicated their marriage.
Marine Major Bob and Rebecca Schmidt were both saved and baptized during Week Two of Operation Heal Our Patriots. We praise God that last Friday, June 8, five individuals were baptized and four couples rededicated their marriage.

Wounded veterans and their spouses grow closer to each other and to Christ during Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Mike Woodard’s muscular frame stands six-foot-four. During his time as a soldier in the U.S. Army, there’s no doubt the enemy should and would have feared him in close quarters.

Army Specialist Mike and Heidi Woodard rededicated their marriage to God and to one another.

Army Specialist Mike and Heidi Woodard rededicated their marriage to God and to one another.

He served bravely in a 2011-12 combat tour to Afghanistan, though it came at great cost. He got blown up three times—once each by a grenade, a rocket-propelled grenade, and an IED—and lost a good friend in one of the attacks. His shoulder took shrapnel, he suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI, which, in his case, causes sporadic seizures), and he’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He was medically retired in 2015, and his domestic life, especially since then, has been difficult, marked by anger and depression. Avoiding the outside world, video games and exercise occupied his time. His wife Heidi, whom he married in 2013, and their young daughter tried hard not to set him off.

Mike’s description of an all-too-typical day goes like this: “Our marriage has been just stress, anxiety, planning. And what’s wrong with you today, Mike? Well, I had bad dreams. Then she [Heidi] has to carry out the rest of the day. And I’m grouchy, and I’m upset. She has to take care of everything.”

Despite his physical strength, Mike considered himself a “clay pot, fragile, empty, with no purpose.” He also rejected God’s existence and thought of Christianity as a “bunch of hooey.”

Last week, that changed. The Lord saved Mike—breathing life into his emptiness—during a weeklong marriage enrichment experience in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots, a project of Samaritan’s Purse started in 2012 as a ministry to wounded veterans (post-9/11) and their spouses.

“Now I feel strengthened and full,” he said. “God is real. I’ve never felt this clarity in my life. It’s tremendous. I’m happy. I don’t feel angry or guilty or sad or depressed.”

  • Army Specialist Mike and Heidi Woodard were baptized at Samaritan Lodge. Mike prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and Heidi rededicated her life to Jesus.
    Army Specialist Mike and Heidi Woodard were baptized at Samaritan Lodge. Mike prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and Heidi rededicated her life.

Heidi rededicated her life to God, returning to the faith of her youth. The couple also publicly renewed their marriage vows, resolving to build their lives and family “on a firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and His Word.” After that ceremony, they were both baptized in the 40-something-degree waters of Lake Clark.

Operation Heal Our Patriots 2018 in-article graphic

The Woodards look forward to starting a new chapter in their marriage. “It was a real life-changer for me and for her,” Mike said. He added that he plans to start going to church, “instead of just hiding in my hole at home, blaming the world.”

“We’ve already grown so much as a couple together and individually,” Heidi said of their time in Alaska. “Yesterday, when we were out on the boat fishing, he smiled—all day. And he told me that he was truly happy. And that is the first time that I’ve heard that in years. I can’t express how much that means to me. It’s just amazing.”

Before leaving Samaritan Lodge Alaska, Mike told the staff, “Thank you for the marriage gain and for the newfound love in Jesus.”

God at Work in Alaska

The Woodards were just one of 10 couples who traveled to Alaska during the second week of this year’s 16-week Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season. All the couples participated in a series of Bible-based marriage classes led by retired military chaplains, as well as various outdoor activities–including wildlife viewing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking.

Marine Major Bob and Rebecca Schmidt proudly show off their catch.

Marine Major Bob and Rebecca Schmidt proudly show off their catch.

Retired Marine Major Bob Schmidt and his wife Rebecca were high school sweethearts and together weathered his 26-year military career (1988-2014). He deployed to Iraq from 2006-7, working the Sunni Triangle and commanding 13 teams of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) techs. He finished his service as an EOD instructor at a joint services school in Florida, beginning in 2008.

As a result of his work, Bob has undergone numerous surgeries for his back and shoulder and wrestles with PTSD and TBI. Being an EOD tech is among the most dangerous jobs in the military, and dozens of the service members he trained did not make it back from Iraq or Afghanistan. “I loved the EOD mission. I loved the camaraderie, but I hated the loss,” Bob said.

Both he and Rebecca had been seeking God recently, but they couldn’t find the right people to explain in clear terms what it means to accept Christ. They found our chaplains ready, willing, and able to help.

“Coming up here has probably been the second greatest thing that’s happened to me. The greatest thing was her and I the other night accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior,” Bob told our staff at the end of last week.

Rebecca took great comfort in the Christian support she found while in Alaska. She feels confident moving forward, “It made sense to me now to follow the path of Jesus … I understand now and I’m ready to follow that path and jump wholeheartedly into the church together.”

Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Workman prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in Alaska and was baptized at Samaritan Lodge.

Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Workman prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in Alaska and was baptized at Samaritan Lodge.

The Schmidts joined three other couples (including the Woodards) in the marriage vow renewal ceremony and were among five individuals baptized in Lake Clark during Week Two.

Retired Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Workman was also baptized. Jeremiah received the Navy Cross in honor of his gallant, lifesaving actions in Iraq during a Dec. 23, 2004, firefight, but he lost three friends in that incident and has struggled with PTSD. His wife Jessica trusted Christ in 2014, so it was a long-hoped-for moment when her husband became a believer as well.

“On Wednesday, we sat down, Jessica and I, with the chaplain, and it was my moment,” he said. “I knew, it was like there was a spotlight shining on me, and it was my time.

“Since Iraq, I’ve had this wall around me and I don’t let people in and I don’t come out too often. But after being here this week, I think it’s time to tear the wall down and let Jesus into my life.”

We praise God for how He is using the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots among military couples. Please keep this project—particularly the 160 couples who will travel to Alaska this summer—in your prayers.

SUPPORT
Bless the Marriage of a Military Couple Operation Heal Our Patriots helps military couples build a strong spiritual foundation during a week of Biblically based workshops, relationship-building wilderness activities, and individual care by our retired military chaplains. We offer all this free of charge to these American heroes as a token of our appreciation for their service and sacrifice. Your gift will help us cover the costs—including transportation, lodging, activities, and long-term aftercare—so that we can help them find hope in the Lord.

Operation Heal Our Patriots 013960
Suggested Gift: $60
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