Read how the first day began at the Operation Heal Our Patriots lodge in Port Alsworth, Alaska.
Regardless of where they’re from, or in what branch of the military they’ve served, the Canadian couples experiencing a week at Operation Heal Our Patriots in Alaska share a common pain only they can truly understand.
They speak in subtle tones among themselves—sometimes covered in jokes—about things most people simply wouldn’t understand. They have come to Operation Heal Our Patriots—a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse—to find renewal and healing from the scars they often hide from the outside world.
Military service can lead to life-long physical and emotional scars, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the strain that puts on families makes many of them fall apart. Many soldiers who manage to make it home from the battlefield end up so despondent that they turn to suicide.
Operation Heal Our Patriots gives wounded veterans and their spouses the opportunity for spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment. Couples enjoy the beauty of God’s creation during outdoor activities and participate in Bible-based seminars that help strengthen their relationships with God and others.
These couples have carried their pain to the Alaskan wilderness with hopes of leaving it there, to find the people they once were, and bring new life to marriages that often become battlefields of their own.
After a flight from Anchorage, over mountains and plains and rivers and waterfalls almost mythical in their beauty, the small plane carrying the 10 military couples from many parts of Canada lands on the runway at Port Alsworth, home to the Samaritan Lodge and Operation Heal Our Patriots.As the plane comes to a stop, one of the couples notices activity out the foggy port window. A crowd of people has gathered for some sort of celebration, waving flags and cheering. At first, many of the couples seem to think their plane landing has interrupted a local gathering.
But once the plane door opens, the veterans and their spouses are surprised to be greeted with a smile, handshake and “Welcome to Alaska!” from Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse international president.
Behind him, a crowd of local residents and staff from the Samaritan Lodge have gathered to welcome these heroes, waving Canadian and American flags, holding signs of welcome and gratitude for their service, and a handshake and a hug from each person in the crowd.
“I’ve never been welcomed like this anywhere, coming back from anything,” one of the veterans says as he shakes the hand of a small girl carrying a Canadian flag, offering a simple “thank you.”
This is Operation Heal Our Patriots. This is a place where veterans come to heal, rebuild, relax, and be loved in the name of Jesus. And this is only Day 1 of a new journey for these couples.