Operation Heal Our Patriots is a weeklong marriage retreat in Alaska for wounded veterans and their spouses. One of our podcast correspondents spent a week at Samaritan Lodge Alaska with the couples listening to their stories and witnessing transformation. And one couple, Ray and Rebecca, had an especially touching story, as they both gave their lives to Christ.
Kristy Graham, host of On the Ground with Samaritan’s Purse, speaks from experience about the challenges of military marriages and how a spouse can never fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. Operation Heal Our Patriots gives these military coupes the chance to slow down, unplug, and attend Biblically based marriage classes as well as explore the Alaskan wilderness together.
Ray was in the Army for over 20 years. He went on five combat deployments and one rotation to Poland. When Ray and Rebecca got married, he had already been in the Army for 13 years, but he still had two deployments ahead. On his final deployment to Poland, Rebecca stayed home and took on the role of step-mom. This season took a major toll on their marriage.
“I checked into this big role change and he checked out. It was very difficult for the relationship.” —Rebecca
When Ray came home from Poland, he was in a dark place and remembers lashing out at his son. That was the moment he realized he needed help. Ray has been in therapy for five years now, which Rebecca views as an act of love for her. But there was still something missing that therapy could not fix. Rebecca decided on a whim to apply for Operation Heal Our Patriots because she thought it looked like a dream vacation.
“We were not huge, devout followers of Jesus Christ. We believed in God. God was not really in our home. And we learned that God really wasn't in our hearts until this week.” —Rebecca
Ray and Rebecca both grew up in church and had knowledge of the Bible, but they did not have faith. When they got to Alaska, everything changed. The couple was surrounded by people who were unashamed of the Gospel. They saw staff and volunteers looking to the Bible for guidance on how to love their spouse. This gave Ray and Rebecca a whole new outlook on marriage and life in general. They were ready to enter into real relationship with the Lord.
“I absolutely do believe that this will help fill that gap that we've both felt for years and just couldn't quite put a finger on what was missing.” —Ray
Lou and Brenda, a husband and wife chaplain team serving at Operation Heal Our Patriots, get to witness the transformations these couples undergo in just five short days. The couples tend to arrive unsure and even anxious, but day by day, their hearts soften. Walls come down as the couples are transparent about their struggles. The change is rapid, and that change agent is Jesus Christ.
“What I love about our chaplains and our wives is that we're transparent too, that we've struggled. We've seen things, we've been in combat. We understand what it is to be apart from one another for a long time. And, and we share our stories.” —Lou
Ray and Rebecca are starting their new life together with God at the center. Moving forward, they have a desire to prioritize their relationship with Him and share what they have learned with their son.
Please continue to pray for the couples who attended Operation Heal Our Patriots this summer. Pray that Alaska is just the first step in their journey walking with the Lord. If you’d like to keep up to date with more stories on the ground, please visit SamaritansPurse.org.