This week in honor of Veteran’s Day, we are introducing you to military veterans and their spouses—families who have selflessly served our country and fought for our freedom. We are taking you to Alaska, where the Samaritan’s Purse ministry, Operation Heal Our Patriots takes place. This week-long marriage retreat is designed to provide spiritual refreshment, physical renewal and marriage enrichment to military veterans and their spouses.
This summer, Kristy and Edward Graham flew to Alaska to greet wounded veterans and their spouses. As couples landed on the rocky airstrip, the entire town and Samaritan’s Purse team gathered to give them a hero’s welcome. Waving American flags and greeting them with cheers and applause, thanking them for their dedication to protect the United States. The couples spent a week at Samaritan Lodge Alaska where they participated in programs uniquely developed to strengthen their marriages. At Samaritan Lodge Alaska, couples have the opportunity to get away from the normal pressures of life, reconnect, explore the Alaskan wilderness, and participate in Biblically based marriage enrichment classes.
Samaritan’s Purse gives thanks to God that through this ministry we have welcomed more than 1,150 military couples to Alaska since 2012 with 473 individuals accepting Christ as their Savior. More than 580 people have been baptized, and 562 couples have rededicated their marriages to God and each other.
Kristy Graham heard the life changing story of Tony and Amy Payne, one of the many couples impacted by Operation Heal Our Patriots. The Paynes met in a tattoo shop. Shortly after they got married, Tony felt led to join the military. After multiple years of service, Tony was critically injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). He and Amy’s marriage hit an all-time low. Out of desperation, Tony turned to God’s Word and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. For the past three years, Tony followed faithfully after Jesus and prayed regularly for his wife Amy to experience God’s love in the same way he had. It was not until they came to Alaska that Amy understood what it meant to follow Jesus. Three years later, Tony’s prayers were answered when Amy committed her life to God. At the end of the week, she was even baptized in the icy waters of Lake Clark.
Another couple whose marriage was restored was JP and Crystal Lane. When JP joined the army at the young age of 22, he was deployed to Afghanistan. In 2011, he was wounded by an IED. Sustaining 26 injuries and going through 28 surgeries, JP and Crystal knew that God had performed a miracle. They spent their time and energy telling JP’s testimony to others, but at the end of the day, they had little left for one another.
“I enjoy 100% inspiring people with the testimony that God has given us and what I’ve been through, but we would be so drained so much that when we were home, we didn’t care about inspiring each other and it was breaking us apart.” – JP Lane
It wasn’t until they came to Alaska that they truly refocused their marriage on one another, and centered their lives around Christ. Operation Heal Our Patriots allowed them to recognize their need, and it gave them space for restoration.
Kristy then had an insightful conversation about the role of the caregiver with Lieutenant General VanAntwerp, a loyal volunteer to Operation Heal Our Patriots since 2012. He emphasized the importance of family, and the healing that happens when couples communicate openly. He encourages couples to draw the line in the sand, promising to commit to their marriages.
But how did Operation Heal Our Patriot begin? Franklin Graham explained to Kristy that the program started when he recognized the need for marriage enrichment for military couples. Over the past seven years, the program has grown and changed for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“When we first started, I wasn’t prepared for the results we would see spiritually. Every week people get saved. Every week people are baptized. Every week couples renew their marriages.” – Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse
This summer, alone, 81 couples renewed their vows and 61 people accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, many who chose to get baptized in Lake Clark. Seeing lives changed and marriages restored is the highlight of the week.
Thank you to all of our veterans—all those who have selflessly served in the United States armed forces—and to those who have stood beside them. Because of your service, we are grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Thank you for your willingness to defend and protect the freedoms we all enjoy.
An Inside Look
Are you a service member from a U.S. military branch who has been injured or wounded in active duty after September 11, 2001? Apply to participate in Operation Heal Our Patriots.
Discover more photos, videos, and stories about how Operation Heal Our Patriots is working to strengthen the relationships and faith of our wounded veterans here.