Operation Heal Our Patriots
Operation Heal Our Patriots - 013960
Operation Heal Our Patriots
Operation Heal Our Patriots - 013960

Alaska marks a new start.

Each Sunday evening throughout the summer, Samaritan's Purse aircraft touch down on the gravel runway at Samaritan Lodge Alaska to the sights and sounds of a flag-waving crowd. In one way, it marks the end of a journey for weary military couples, but it's the beginning of something, too.

Many people across the country are praying for these wounded veterans and their spouses—that God will use the week in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots to bring them both rest and a new start with God and each other.

Warrior Couples Find Healing in Alaska

Couples come to Alaska looking for a way to fix what’s broken­­—broken relationships and marriages on the brink. Often they feel far from God.

But as they step away from daily life and distractions, many couples find hope awakening again as they go through six days of chaplain-led, Biblically based marriage enrichment training. Coursework and spiritual counseling are integral parts of their week, as are once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experiences in Lake Clark National Park and surrounding areas. They also connect with other couples who've faced a lot of the same struggles. Maybe this is the first time they've not felt absolutely alone.

"Each year we get to see God work powerfully in the lives of these couples as they become a part of the Operation Heal Our Patriots family, God has been faithful to restore and transform many lives and marriages devastated by the wounds of war. I'm grateful that our connection to these men and women doesn't end in Alaska. Our commitment to them is for life."

-Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse President

Lives Transformed

Operation Heal Our Patriots began 10 years ago in response to the epidemic of broken marriages among military families. The only real hope to change grim statistics is through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since 2012, God has been faithful to transform lives and rescue marriages at this wilderness outpost. More than 1,300 couples have come to Samaritan Lodge Alaska, and we praise God that 576 participants have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, 704 have been baptized by our chaplains in Lake Clark, and 674 couples have recommitted their marriages to God.

One Couple's Story

Restoring Hope

Army Specialist Johnny Steele and his wife Alyssa were one of those couples whose marriage was a cold war before Alaska. They both carried anger and unforgiveness with them to Alaska in 2021, until they experienced the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"No one had ever told me that. I never learned about forgiveness growing up. I just thought church was where people went to act perfect until they left," she said. "I wanted nothing to do with that. At the same time, I also felt unworthy of God because I had messed up so much. Somehow I knew a relationship with God was the only thing that would fix us."

The Steeles received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in Alaska. They were baptized and recommitted their marriage to God. Back home, Johnny says, they have peace for the first time in a long time.

"Our kids are noticing the difference, too," Johnny says. "I've felt closer to her than probably I've ever felt the whole time we've been married. It's hard to find words that describe that. It was powerful. I never thought I'd see the day. Not in a million years."

We praise God that so many military couples have experienced the healing power of Jesus Christ through the project over the last 10 years.

But Alaska is only the beginning.

For many couples, Alaska is a mountaintop experience in many ways. Going back home is hard. The problems are still there. But so is Operation Heal Our Patriots.

"The real work of ongoing discipleship begins when they're back home and dealing with life again," said John Pryor, a former Marine who now serves as director of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Focus on Family Care

Operation Heal Our Patriots Family Care is the year-round, lifetime component of the program. When Franklin Graham tells military couples in Alaska "you're family now," this is what he means.

First, regional chaplains help connect Alaska alumni with local Christian congregations that are faithful to God’s Word. They also maintain regular contact with couples through phone calls, emails, texts, social media, web meetings, and in-person counseling sessions. Sometimes, chaplains will even make special trips to be present during major life events.

There are also various gatherings that provide new chances for veterans and their spouses to hear and respond to the Gospel—including Fortify Your Marriage weekends and chaplain-led regional events. In addition, we offer our annual Operation Heal Our Patriots Reunion.

Team Patriot Serves

The Family Care ministry also offers opportunities to serve through Team Patriot, a program in which veterans and spouses can serve U.S. homeowners who have been affected by natural disasters.

"Team Patriot provides a sense of purpose and community, but more importantly, it gets them involved in serving through the church," said Edward Graham, a retired Army Ranger and vice president of Operations at Samaritan's Purse. Edward is the youngest son of Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham.

"Imagine how it will impact a homeowner who's lost everything to see a wounded service member out in their yard helping them get back on their feet. We want these wounded men and women to remember that they are heroes and that God wants to use them."

Ben and Heidi Hebert Ben and Heidi Hebert
Ben and Heidi Hebert

Key Leader Couple Story

"He brought us through the wilderness. And part of it was so we could walk with others through their own wilderness. We’re here now, we came out on the other side, and we can tell others about what He's done."

-Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Ben Hebert

Watch and read the Hebert's story here

Key Leaders Mentor

Finally, the ministry extends beyond the outreach of our chaplains and other staff members. It is also built upon connection and mutual support from other military couples in the program—more men and women who have their back and understand their struggles.

Through our Key Leader initiative, a group of military couples—all Operation Heal Our Patriots alumni—are pursuing their calling to teach and strengthen other couples in their marriages and in their walk with Christ. Key Leaders go through a year-long, chaplain-led training and mentorship process while also continuing to serve military couples in their communities.

Apply For Operation
Heal Our Patriots

All that Operation Heal Our Patriots offers is aimed at strengthening military marriages while also building up individual relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Married U.S. military personnel, current and former, wounded in combat or combat-related activities since 9/11 are encouraged to fill out an Operation Heal Our Patriots application online at samaritanspurse.org/patriots. Applications for the summer season are accepted starting 1 Feb. each year.

All travel to and from Samaritan Lodge Alaska is planned, provided, and paid for by Samaritan's Purse.