Surrounded by the lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains of Alaska, Operation Heal our Patriots is a unique initiative that offers military couples one-week getaways to reconnect and strengthen their marriages in a spectacular setting.
This year’s all-expenses-paid session for 10 physically and/or emotionally wounded military veterans and their spouses from Canada will take place from September 11 to 16 at the Samaritan Lodge in Port Alsworth.
Operation Heal Our Patriots (OHOP) is an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international relief and development organization with projects in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Although OHOP has existed since 2012, and hosted more than 500 military couples from the U.S. during the past four years, this is only the second year that a week has been set aside solely for Canadian veterans and their spouses.
“OHOP focuses on relaxation, recreation, marital enrichment, and spiritual encouragement for military couples,” explains Fred Weiss, executive director of Samaritan’s Purse Canada. “Military service can take a heavy toll on a marriage, OHOP helps couples restore and strengthen their relationships with each other and with God. We offer military couples a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can profoundly benefit them in many lasting ways.”
The relaxation portion of the week at Samaritan Lodge includes a cozy little wheelchair-accessible cabin for each couple, and delicious meals with all 10 couples together. The recreation times include professionally guided kayaking and salmon-fishing excursions, a hike to a scenic waterfall, and a float-plane trip to view grizzly bears.
“We have been pampered,” said Lisa Harding, who took part in OHOP last September. “We’ve really enjoyed our time here. We’ve had some wonderful times outdoors with other people, and we’ve had some quiet times when we can sit and just reconnect.”
The marital enrichment and spiritual encouragement portion of the week at Samaritan Lodge flows from workshops led by retired military chaplains. The Biblically-based sessions are designed to strengthen married couples’ relationship with God and with each other.
Canadian military veteran Chris Carpenter doesn’t come from a Christian family and was a bit fearful he’d be “preached at” when he arrived in Alaska last September. But “it’s been nothing like that,” he said near the end of his OHOP week. “I really enjoyed the (morning) devotions and the religious aspects of this.”
OHOP requires that military members have served since Sept.11, 2001 because one of the key reasons OHOP began was to honour veterans’ fight against terrorism that began with 9/11.
Canadian veteran Chris Carpenter’s wife Paula says the OHOP employees and volunteers were so loving and supportive during their week in Alaska that they will always remain grateful.
“It’s been the experience of a lifetime,” Paula says. “I have never felt so loved.”
The Operation Heal Our Patriots journey doesn’t end when the military veterans and spouses return home. Samaritan’s Purse provides after care to all participating couples.
To apply for Operation Heal our Patriots visit the Samaritan’s Purse website.