Wounded Veterans Find Hope for Their Marriages

Operation Heal Our Patriots
Operation Heal Our Patriots - 013960
Operation Heal Our Patriots
Operation Heal Our Patriots - 013960

Wounded Veterans Find Hope for Their Marriages

Alaska marks a new start.

Each Sunday evening throughout the summer, Samaritan's Purse aircraft touch down on the gravel runway at Samaritan Lodge Alaska to the sights and sounds of a flag-waving crowd. In one way, it marks the end of a journey for weary military couples, but it's the beginning of something, too.

Many people across the country are praying for these wounded veterans and their spouses—that God will use their week in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots to bring them both rest and a new start with God and each other.

Warrior Couples Find Healing in Alaska

Couples come to Alaska looking for a way to fix what's broken—broken relationships and marriages on the brink. Often they feel far from God.

But as they step away from daily life and distractions, many couples find hope awakening again as they go through six days of chaplain-led, Biblically based marriage enrichment training. Coursework and spiritual care are integral parts of their week, as are once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experiences in Lake Clark National Park and surrounding areas. They also connect with other couples who have faced a lot of the same struggles. Perhaps for the first time, they don't feel so alone.

"Each year we get to see God work powerfully in the lives of these couples as they become a part of the Operation Heal Our Patriots family, God has been faithful to restore and transform many lives and marriages devastated by the wounds of war. I'm grateful that our connection to these men and women doesn't end in Alaska. Our commitment to them is for life."

-Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse President

ON THE GROUND: For 17 weeks every summer, military veterans and their spouses are invited to Operation Heal Our Patriots for a week-long marriage retreat. Kristy Graham takes listeners behind-the-scenes to experience what these military couples do day by day, immersing them in what life is like at Samaritan Lodge Alaska. Hear how the Lord transforms marriages through Biblically based marriage classes, excursions in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness, and intentional conversations with chaplains, staff, and volunteers.

Lives Transformed

Operation Heal Our Patriots began more than 10 years ago in response to the epidemic of broken marriages among military families. The only real hope to change grim statistics is through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since 2012, God has been faithful to transform lives and rescue marriages at this wilderness outpost. We have welcomed 1,726 couples since then to Samaritan Lodge Alaska and we praise God that 765 participants have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, 904 have been baptized by our chaplains in Lake Clark, and 858 couples have recommitted their marriages to God.


An Unexpected Journey to New Life

Jason Morse went to Alaska to please his wife and returned home with new life in Jesus Christ.

Staff Sergeant Jason Morse planned to lay low during the military marriage retreat in Alaska that his wife, Biby, had signed them up for. He'd have time to fish and it would make her happy that he'd joined her.

“I'm just going to fake my way through it,” he told her on their flight to the Samaritan's Purse wilderness lodge. “I'm just there for you and the fishing.”

Biby, though, still had hope. She'd found Operation Heal Our Patriots in a PTSD Facebook group for veterans' wives. She'd been praying for him for many years.


“I just knew we needed to be there. We were drifting,” she said. “We were losing each other.”

Jason doesn't talk much about his three difficult deployments to Afghanistan, but knows he's a different person since. He flips out sometimes. He isolates himself. He's tried taking his own life. Biby's been there for the worst of it.

Surprised by God

Despite his original plans, Jason's mind and heart were quickly stirred in Alaska. In Biblically based marriage classes, he learned how to hear and understand his wife—how to forgive and be forgiven. He found that other couples had similar “crazy” lives because of combat injuries.

Then one night, he and Biby talked late into the night, asking one of our chaplains questions.

“He walked us through Scripture and it finally made sense,” Jason said.

At the end of that conversation, he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.

On Friday morning the Morses recommitted their marriage to God. Jason was baptized by our chaplains in Lake Cark.

“This place is special. I'm so glad she signed us up,” he said. “This place was a real eye-opener to me. I have a lot more to learn. One day at a time.”

Biby agreed: “This has been the most beautiful experience I've had.”

We praise God that so many military couples have experienced the healing power of Jesus Christ through the project over the last 10 years.

But Alaska is only the beginning.

For many couples, Alaska is a mountaintop experience in many ways. Going back home is hard. The problems are still there. But so is Operation Heal Our Patriots.

"The real work of ongoing discipleship begins when they're back home and dealing with life again," said John Pryor, a former Marine who now serves as director of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Focus on Family Care

Operation Heal Our Patriots Family Care is the year-round, lifetime component of the program. When Franklin Graham tells military couples in Alaska "you're family now," this is what he means.

First, regional chaplains help connect Alaska alumni with local Christian congregations that are faithful to God’s Word. They also maintain regular contact with couples through phone calls, emails, texts, social media, web meetings, and in-person pastoral care sessions. Sometimes, chaplains will even make special trips to be present during major life events.

There are also various gatherings that provide new chances for veterans and their spouses to hear and respond to the Gospel—including Fortify Your Marriage weekends and chaplain-led regional events. In addition, we offer our annual Operation Heal Our Patriots Reunion.

Team Patriot Serves

The Family Care ministry also offers opportunities to serve through Team Patriot, a program in which veterans and spouses can serve U.S. homeowners who have been affected by natural disasters.

"Team Patriot provides a sense of purpose and community, but more importantly, it gets them involved in serving through the church," said Edward Graham, a retired Army Ranger and vice president of Operations at Samaritan's Purse. Edward is the youngest son of Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham.

"Imagine how it will impact a homeowner who's lost everything to see a wounded service member out in their yard helping them get back on their feet. We want these wounded men and women to remember that they are heroes and that God wants to use them."

Ben and Heidi Hebert Ben and Heidi Hebert
Ben and Heidi Hebert

Key Leader Couple Story

"He brought us through the wilderness. And part of it was so we could walk with others through their own wilderness. We’re here now, we came out on the other side, and we can tell others about what He's done."

-Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Ben Hebert

Read the Hebert's story here

Key Leaders Mentor

Finally, the ministry extends beyond the outreach of our chaplains and other staff members. It is also built upon connection and mutual support from other military couples in the program—more men and women who have their back and understand their struggles.

Through our Key Leader initiative, a group of military couples—all Operation Heal Our Patriots alumni—are pursuing their calling to teach and strengthen other couples in their marriages and in their walk with Christ. Key Leaders go through a year-long, chaplain-led training and mentorship process while also continuing to serve military couples in their communities.

Apply For Operation
Heal Our Patriots

Apply Now

Married U.S. military personnel, current and former, wounded in combat or combat-related activities since 9/11 are encouraged to fill out an Operation Heal Our Patriots application online at samaritanspurse.org/patriots-application. Applications for the summer season are accepted starting 1 Feb. each year.

All travel to and from Samaritan Lodge Alaska is planned, provided, and paid for by Samaritan's Purse.