Wounded Veterans and Spouses Find God’s Healing through Operation Heal Our Patriots

July 31, 2019 • United States
Army Sergeant Joe and Brittany Gray enjoy a day fishing in Lake Clark National Park.
Army Sergeant Joe and Brittany Gray enjoy a day fishing in Lake Clark National Park.

Couples report radical changes after going through our Biblically based marriage resiliency training in Alaska.

Bless the Marriage of a Military Couple
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When Army Sergeant Joe and Brittany Gray arrived at Samaritan Lodge Alaska on Sunday, July 21, they had been separated several weeks and were on the verge of getting a divorce. In fact, the very day they got there they had originally planned to go to dinner and discuss next steps—possibly giving up on their relationship entirely.

It was a rough start for the Grays when they arrived in Alaska. But through Biblically based marriage classes, counseling, and time together, God began to thaw their icy relationship.

It was a rough start for the Grays when they arrived in Alaska. But through Biblically based marriage classes, counseling, and time together, God began to thaw their icy relationship.

“We were just about at the very end of things,” Joe said. In fact, just two days before leaving for Alaska, Brittany told Joe that she hoped he would find healing there, but, as for herself, she was just going for the experience. She was closed off. She was hurt. She was defensive.

Many of their marital difficulties stemmed from Joe’s 2007 deployment to Iraq where he was shot by a sniper in the back of his head. Fortunately, the bullet didn’t enter his skull. “It went through my helmet and grazed my scalp pretty good,” Joe said. “It gave me a real bad concussion and TBI (traumatic brain injury).” When he returned home, he wasn’t the same person. Among many other things, he couldn’t focus and was very short-tempered.

“The wives [also] go through trauma, because we bring all this stuff back,” Joe said. “You can’t just turn that switch off. So, when we come back we unwillingly traumatize them because they are helping us through our issues. After a while, it drags them down.”

Joe was raised in a Christian home and attended a private Christian school, but he admits, “I wasn’t the strongest follower [of Jesus] by any means.” However, his 2007 near-death experience got his attention, and he gave his life to Christ soon after. Nonetheless, he describes the past 12 years as a struggle.

Experiencing Renewed Hope

As they arrived in Alaska, Joe held out a bit more hope than Brittany for the future of their marriage. At his lowest point during their separation, he cried out to God for help and he said he felt his burdens lifting. He wasn’t as ready to give up on things and, in fact, wanted to propose to Brittany again on the retreat.

Joe and Brittany recommitted their marriage to God at the end of their week in Alaska.

Joe and Brittany recommitted their marriage to God at the end of their week in Alaska.

Their first night at our camp, he broached the subject, but she was cool toward the idea. But as they participated in marriage enrichment classes led by retired military chaplains and went on wilderness excursions together, they began to communicate more freely.

Then on Wednesday night, Brittany said to Joe, “You still haven’t asked me to marry you again.”

The next day they went fly fishing, and Joe put her wedding ring, which she had stopped wearing during their separation, on a fish hook and dangled it in front of her. “I got down on my knee and said, ‘We’ve tried this once, and I didn’t do a very good job. I know we can do better a second time around. Will you marry me again?’”

Brittany said, “Yes,” and the two recommitted themselves to each other and to God in a ceremony Friday morning. Joe was also baptized.

“We started the week off cold and separate and then at the end of the week we rededicated our marriage to God,” Joe said. “There’s only one way that happens. God has blessed us. It’s an amazing thing.”

  • Army Sergeant Joe Gray recommitted his life to Christ and was baptized in Lake Clark.
    Army Sergeant Joe Gray recommitted his life to Christ and was baptized in Lake Clark.

The Grays were just one of 10 couples who participated in their week of training (Week 9 of 16 this summer). Already many lives and marriages have been transformed by the power of the Gospel. We’ve welcomed close to 100 couples this year with 39 individuals receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, 48 baptisms, and 51 couples who have rededicated their marriages to God. As military families fly up to Alaska over the coming weeks, please ask God to continue blessing this project of Samaritan’s Purse. For more articles and videos from the 2019 season, visit our Operation Heal Our Patriots landing page.

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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.

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