Each summer, Samaritan’s Purse welcomes up to 160 military couples—each with a spouse injured in combat or combat-related activity since September 11, 2001—to Samaritan Lodge Alaska for a marriage enrichment experience. Through Operation Heal Our Patriots, husbands and wives spend an entire week together away from the distractions and demands of their daily lives. At the lodge in Port Alsworth, Alaska, couples enjoy wilderness views, great meals, outdoor activities, marriage resiliency classes, and devotional times led by our on-site staff chaplains.
“This is powerful for us. This is very meaningful to us,” said Audrey, the wife of Army Sergeant Brett VanSteenberg. “The tools that they have shared with us, we can take back home and practice, and hopefully make our relationship stronger than it already is.”
Following that memorable week, Samaritan’s Purse continues to minister to these couples by inviting them to our annual Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion and to aftercare events throughout the country, connecting them with other military couples and local churches as part of a growing community. Couples are also provided 24/7 access to our aftercare chaplains.
Juan Velazquez, and his wife, Jessica, were one of the nearly 300 alumni couples that attended the annual reunion in March 2017. “Operation Heal Our Patriots, all of us here are family, every single one of them,” Juan said. “The wives can relate to each other. You can see the camaraderie here, and not only that we reunite as a team, we also reunite in our fellowship with God.”
Michael and Rebecca Bennett waited until the reunion to rededicate their marriage to God, partly because they view the other military couples as family.
“Samaritan’s Purse has almost become like a second family to us,” Rebecca said. “In just the short time that they’ve known us, they’ve reached out and embraced us. I had a wounded heart and wounded spirit and toward the end of my retirement they kind of swooped me up. I’m glad we have the opportunity to rededicate in a place like this, with people like this. It’s a renewal of our marriage and of our faith in God.”
The 2017 summer season will mark the project’s sixth year of ministry. Since its launch in 2012, 686 couples have become part of the Operation Heal Our Patriots family.