Strengthening Military Marriages

Our ninth summer season of Operation Heal Our Patriots began July 4 weekend as we welcomed the first planeloads of wounded veterans and their spouses to Samaritan Lodge Alaska. Please pray as military couples receive marriage enrichment and also find freedom in Christ.

This year's summer season of Operation Heal Our Patriots at Samaritan Lodge Alaska has started. We anticipate welcoming up to eight U.S. military couples each week until September 11 for a time of relationship building, spiritual refreshment, and physical renewal.

1/8 Patriot couples are enthusiastically welcomed to Samaritan Lodge Alaska as they arrive by plane from Anchorage.
Patriot couples are warmly welcomed to Samaritan Lodge Alaska as they arrive by plane from Anchorage on July 5, 2020.
2/8 Franklin and Jane Austin Graham greeted each military couple as they arrived July 5 at Samaritan Lodge Alaska for the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season.
Franklin and Jane Austin Graham greeted each military couple as they arrived July 5 at Samaritan Lodge Alaska for the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season.
3/8 Jesy Martinez was deeply moved by the welcome she and her husband, Army veteran Brad Martinez, received at Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
Jesy Martinez was deeply moved by the welcome she and her husband, Army veteran Brad Martinez, received at Samaritan Lodge Alaska.
4/8 Couples and chaplains have an opportunity to talk at the lodge throughout the week.
Couples and chaplains have an opportunity to talk at the lodge throughout the week.
5/8 Our guides lead the way as couples hike the trail to Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park.
Our guides lead the way as couples hike the trail to Tanalian Falls in Lake Clark National Park.
6/8 The hike to Tanalian Falls provides couples with a backdrop of unparalleled beauty to connect with each other and with God in the wilderness.
The hike to Tanalian Falls provides couples with a backdrop of unparalleled beauty to connect with each other and with God in the wilderness.
7/8 Wilderness excursions provide time for chaplains to talk with veterans and their spouses.
Wilderness excursions provide time for chaplains to talk with veterans and their spouses.
8/8 Military couples enjoyed a day fly fishing from our boat the Jay Hammond on Lake Clark during the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season in Alaska.
Military couples enjoyed a day fly fishing from our boat the Jay Hammond on Lake Clark during the first week of the 2020 Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season in Alaska.

“Week after week, I see men and women learn about God’s love for them. These heroes have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation, and I am grateful to God that they are experiencing true freedom through the power of the Gospel,” said Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham about this project.

These heroes have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation, and I am grateful to God that they are experiencing true freedom through the power of the Gospel.”
- Franklin Graham

Samaritan’s Purse started Operation Heal Our Patriots in 2012 to strengthen the marriages of military personnel wounded in combat or combat-related activities after 9/11. Couples are flown to our wilderness lodge in Alaska where they participate in marriage classes, enjoy daily devotions from God’s Word, and are offered Christ-focused counseling with veteran military chaplains. They also have opportunities for physical refreshment by participating together in activities such as kayaking, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Over the years, we have welcomed more than 1,100 military couples to our Alaska camp. We praise God that 473 individuals have made commitments to Jesus Christ, close to 600 have been baptized, and about half of all participating couples have publicly rededicated their marriages to the Lord during their time in Alaska.

"Breath of Fresh Air"

Working today as a bi-vocational pastor, former Army Specialist Brad Martinez is pulled in many directions. That’s part of the reason why he and his wife Jesy were so grateful for a week of marriage enrichment in Alaska this July through Operation Heal Our Patriots.

“It’s the first time she’s had me to herself for a long time,” Brad said. “She shares me with the church, the kids, work, everybody.”

Army Specialist Brad Martinez and his wife Jesy

The couple married just before Brad shipped off to Iraq in 2004 for a 13-month deployment. Brad returned to his bride deeply altered by post-traumatic stress (PTS). “It changed our lives,” Jesy said.

They nearly divorced early in their marriage, but both came to know the Lord in 2008 and worked on piecing their relationship back together. Stresses and strains remain to this day, even as God has called them to ministry.

Focused on God and each other, their time at Samaritan Lodge was restorative for body and soul.

“This week here has been like a breath of fresh air,” Brad said in Alaska after the couple rededicated their marriage to God and one another in a public ceremony led by our chaplains. “From the classes you take to the food you eat, you feel love, you feel Jesus, the peace. You can feel that people have prayed for this time, for us to be able to be here and receive.”

Discipleship Continues

The experience in Alaska is just the beginning of our ministry to military couples. Samaritan’s Purse chaplains follow up with them over the long term through our aftercare program. Our staff connects couples with local churches, engages families through regular personal contact (phone calls, emails, social media, visits), offers discipleship opportunities, and meets with them at regional get-togethers.

Operation Heal Our Patriots reunions and training events also benefit couples by providing more Christian teaching and tools to fortify their marriage. Many of the participants have also developed deep relationships with one another and support each other directly in a variety of ways.

Additionally, our new Team Patriot program gives our military couples the opportunity to deploy with each other to communities hard-hit by natural disasters. Army Specialist Eric Marcengill and his wife Rachel served on the first ever Team Patriot deployment, which took them to southeastern Texas to help rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

Army Specialist Eric Marcengill and his wife Rachel

“Meeting the homeowners, you get to see the impact you’re having. Now, you’re not just serving your country, you’re also serving God,” Eric said.

Please pray that military marriages will be restored this summer and that many will grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for strength and wisdom for our staff as they minister to couples in Alaska and beyond during 2020, a year which has presented unique challenges.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Please note that, in all aspects of this project, Samaritan’s Purse staff members are taking added precautions to help protect everyone’s health and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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