A Celebration of Marriage and Freedom

July 4, 2015 • United States
Greta Van Susteren is visiting Alaska and met participants in our Operation Heal Our Patriots program, including Marine Sergeant Carlos Evans and his wife Rosemarie of Cameron, North Carolina.

A visit from Greta Van Susteren and eight marriage rededication ceremonies are among highlights from Week Five of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Nine military couples enjoyed bear watching, pike fishing, hiking, kayaking, and rafting this week from Port Alsworth, Alaska, as part of the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Heal Our Patriots project for injured service personnel and their spouses.

Operation Heal Our Patriots week 5

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren takes the plunge into the chilly waters of Lake Clark.

Plenty of cell phone cameras also recorded the couples’ polar plunge into Lake Clark alongside Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham and Greta Van Susteren, host of the Fox News program On the Record.

Franklin and his wife Jane welcomed Greta and her husband John Coale to Port Alsworth on Thursday to stay the Fourth of July weekend and meet couples who have sacrificed much to defend our freedoms.

Although it was a week of exciting wilderness firsts for many, couples were primarily focused on each other and daily Bible-based marriage enrichment classes.

“It’s a place to heal and not worry about anything at home. You can connect and reconnect with each other,” Deanna Cabaniss said.

Operation Heal Our Patriots Week 5

Franklin Graham spoke with Army Corporal Jeremy Cabaniss and his wife Deanna. The couple rededicated their marriage and both Deanna and Jeremy were baptized. Jeremy was wrestling with suicidal thoughts before coming to Samaritan Lodge Alaska. This week he found the hope, peace, and assurance he needed. “There’s no doubt in my head anymore. It’s been a blessing here. I know I have Christ in my heart. I feel so much better,” Jeremy said.

Her husband, Army Corporal Jeremy Cabaniss, served in Baghdad, Iraq, and suffered a traumatic brain injury when an armor-piercing improvised explosive device (IED) hit his vehicle’s turret in 2006.

“I haven’t seen my wife smile like she did yesterday in years and that makes me more happy than I can explain,” Jeremy said.

Marine Sergeant Carlos Evans lost both his legs and his left hand to an IED in Afghanistan in 2010. He and his wife Rosemarie are strong Christians and encouraged both staff and other participants during their stay.

Operation Heal Our Patriots week 5

On their first day fishing, Rosemarie Evans caught a 27-inch lake trout. Carlos Evans caught several Arctic grayling from his Action Trackchair.

“When Christ is the center of your relationship you can go through hard times,” Carlos said. “I can assure you if Christ is the center of your relationship He’ll give you the strength to go through [the ups and downs] and to love each other. The reason we say that is because we’ve lived it.”

Carlos and Rosemarie, who both hail from Puerto Rico, soaked in the Christian teaching and plan to implement the practical tools they learned for strengthening their marriage and family.

“I know in my heart that I’m going to be a better husband. I’m going to be a better father. I’m going to be a better man of God,” Carlos said.

Eight of the couples visiting Samaritan Lodge Alaska this week committed themselves anew to God and their spouse in a memorable ceremony along the shores of Hardenberg Bay on Friday. Each spouse asked their partner to forgive past actions and promised to offer grace in response to future wrongs. Furthermore, they resolved to build their lives on a firm foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word.

Operation Heal Our Patriots week 5

Marine Sergeant John Margaritondo of Tarpon Springs, Florida, was baptized on Friday after receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior during the week. He was injured in an IED attack during a vehicle patrol in Afghanistan in 2011. “I’ve been really struggling with Jesus in general since Afghanistan,” John said. “I thought that I wasn’t worthy of forgiveness for the things that I’d done over there. But Chaplain helped me see the way. I’m ready to give my life to Jesus.”

Marine Corporal Patrick Patton and his wife Samantha of Tallmadge, Ohio, rededicated their marriage on the shores of Lake Clark. “I feel it’s given us a chance to reset and time to focus on each other,” Patrick said of their experience in Alaska.

Marine Corporal Patrick Patton and his wife Samantha of Tallmadge, Ohio, rededicated their marriage on the shores of Lake Clark. “I feel it’s given us a chance to reset and time to focus on each other,” Patrick said.

There were also nine people baptized on Friday. All of those baptized had earlier this week either received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or rededicated their lives to Him.

“This trip has really changed our lives,” Samantha Patton said.

Her husband, Marine Corporal Patrick Patton, was injured by an IED in Afghanistan in 2012. They were among those baptized beneath the cool waters of Lake Clark. They also rededicated their marriage on the date—July 3—of their sixth wedding anniversary.

“Just a month ago we were on the verge of divorce,” Samantha said. “We didn’t know how to deal with each other.”

They said the tools they learned this week, especially those from a class on repentance and forgiveness, will help them avoid and defuse their conflicts. The new relationship the couple has with Christ brings reconciliation with their Creator and each other.

“This has probably been the best week I’ve ever had in my life,” Patrick said. “It’s been a huge step for me and my wife—renewing our vows and finding Jesus.

Operation Heal Our Patriots week 5

Greta Van Susteren and John Coale pose in the door of Dick Proenneke’s historic cabin at Twin Lakes, Lake Clark National Park.

“We can really feel loved here. You can tell that nobody’s faking it. They really care about us and I appreciate that.”

Bless the Marriage of a Military Couple Operation Heal Our Patriots helps military couples build a strong spiritual foundation during a week of Biblically based workshops, relationship-building wilderness activities, and individual care by our retired military chaplains. We offer all this free of charge to these American heroes as a token of our appreciation for their service and sacrifice. Your gift will help us cover the costs—including transportation, lodging, activities, and long-term Family Care—so that we can help them find hope in the Lord.

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Suggested Gift: $60