Image: 2019 Operation Heal Our Patriots Season

Strengthening Military Marriages

Our ninth summer season of Operation Heal Our Patriots began July 5, 2020, as we welcomed the first planeloads of wounded veterans and their spouses to Samaritan Lodge Alaska. Please pray as military couples receive marriage enrichment and also find freedom in Christ.

July 4 weekend marked the exciting start of our ninth season of Operation Heal Our Patriots at Samaritan Lodge Alaska. We anticipate welcoming up to eight U.S. military couples each week until September 11 for a time of relationship building, spiritual refreshment, and physical renewal.

1/9 Dozens of staff, volunteers, and townspeople came to the Port Alsworth runway to welcome the first two planeloads this year of injured military personnel and their spouses to Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
Dozens of staff, volunteers, and townspeople came to the Port Alsworth runway to welcome the first two planeloads this year of injured military personnel and their spouses to Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
2/9 Franklin and Jane Austin Graham greeted each military couple as they arrived July 5 at Samaritan Lodge Alaska for the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season.
Franklin and Jane Austin Graham greeted each military couple as they arrived July 5 at Samaritan Lodge Alaska for the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season.
3/9 Jesy Martinez was deeply moved by the welcome she and her husband, Army veteran Brad Martinez, received at Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
Jesy Martinez was deeply moved by the welcome she and her husband, Army veteran Brad Martinez, received at Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
4/9 Couples and chaplains have an opportunity to talk at the lodge throughout the week.
Couples and chaplains have an opportunity to talk at the lodge throughout the week.
5/9 Our guides lead the way as couples hike the trail to Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park.
Our guides lead the way as couples hike the trail to Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park.
6/9 The hike to Tanalian Falls provides couples with a backdrop of unparalleled beauty to connect with each other and with God in the wilderness.
The hike to Tanalian Falls provides couples with a backdrop of unparalleled beauty to connect with each other and with God in the wilderness.
7/9 Wilderness excursions provide time for chaplains to talk with veterans and their spouses.
Wilderness excursions provide time for chaplains to talk with veterans and their spouses.
8/9 Accomplished Navy aviators and commercial airline pilots Tammie Jo Shults and her husband Dean visited Samaritan Lodge Week One this year.
Accomplished Navy aviators and commercial airline pilots Tammie Jo Shults and her husband Dean visited Samaritan Lodge Week One this year.
9/9 Military couples enjoyed a day fly fishing from our boat the Jay Hammond on Lake Clark during Week One of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots Summer Season in Alaska.
Military couples enjoyed a day fly fishing from our boat the Jay Hammond on Lake Clark during Week One of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots Summer Season in Alaska.

“Week after week, I see men and women learn about God’s love for them. These heroes have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation, and I am grateful to God that they are experiencing true freedom through the power of the Gospel,” said Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham about this project.

These heroes have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation, and I am grateful to God that they are experiencing true freedom through the power of the Gospel.”
- Franklin Graham

Samaritan’s Purse started Operation Heal Our Patriots in 2012 to strengthen the marriages of military personnel wounded in combat or combat-related activities after 9/11. Couples are flown to our wilderness lodge in Alaska where they participate in marriage classes, enjoy daily devotions from God’s Word, and are offered Christ-focused counseling with veteran military chaplains. They also have opportunities for physical refreshment by participating together in activities such as kayaking, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Over the years, we have welcomed more than 1,100 military couples to our Alaska camp. We praise God that 473 individuals have made commitments to Jesus Christ, close to 600 have been baptized, and about half of all participating couples have publicly rededicated their marriages to the Lord during their time in Alaska.

Army Staff Sergeant Art De La Garza and his wife Diana both found greater freedom in Jesus Christ last summer when they participated in Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Army Staff Sergeant Art De La Garza and his wife Diana

The couple arrived in Alaska considering divorce and feared that their marriage would continue to unravel. Yet, as they learned how to communicate in a deeper way, and grew in their relationship with God, their attitudes began to change. They renewed their wedding vows and were also baptized in Lake Clark.

“Diana and I were miles apart, but now we are closer than we’ve ever been,” Art said. “Jesus brought us together.”

The experience in Alaska is just the beginning of our ministry to military couples. Samaritan’s Purse chaplains follow up with them over the long term through our aftercare program. Our staff connects couples with local churches, engages families through regular personal contact (phone calls, emails, social media, visits), offers discipleship opportunities, and meets with them at regional get-togethers.

Operation Heal Our Patriots reunions and training events also benefit couples by providing more Christian teaching and tools to fortify their marriage. Many of the participants have also developed deep relationships with one another and support each other directly in a variety of ways.

Additionally, our new Team Patriot program gives our military couples the opportunity to deploy with each other to communities hard-hit by natural disasters. Army Specialist Eric Marcengill and his wife Rachel served on the first ever Team Patriot deployment, which took them to southeastern Texas to help rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

Army Specialist Eric Marcengill and his wife Rachel

“Meeting the homeowners, you get to see the impact you’re having. Now, you’re not just serving your country, you’re also serving God,” Eric said.

Please pray that military marriages will be restored this summer and that many will grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for strength and wisdom for our staff as they minister to couples in Alaska and beyond during 2020, a year which has presented unique challenges.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Please note that, in all aspects of this project, Samaritan’s Purse staff members are taking added precautions to help protect everyone’s health and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.