PORT ALSWORTH, Alaska (Christian Examiner) -- Wounded war veterans physically scarred from frontline battles face years of medical attention, yet the long-term inner healing many require can often go overlooked. This summer 160 military couples will receive support to overcome the intense struggle many heroes face off the battlefield upon their return home.
Dealing with the difficulties of war-stressed marriages is the focus of the Samaritan's Purse marriage enrichment program, Operation Heal Our Patriots, which seeks to help military couples navigate through the spiritual healing and restoration their families need. Samaritan's purse is an international Christian relief organization led by Franklin Graham who also serves as president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
"We know long-term healing needs a strong marriage and a strong faith," said retired Marine Brigadier General Jim Walker, executive director of Operation Heal Our Patriots.
From the chronic pain of wartime wounds to post-traumatic stress, OHOP is designed to provide spiritual guidance and a community of support to deal with the uncertainty of every day life after war.
The OHOP program launched in June 2012 and is designed for veterans injured in combat or combat operations after 9/11. This year 160 couples are expected to participate over a four month span. The first 10 couples arrived June 1 to an enthusiastic 100-member crowd of SP staff and community residents waving flags and issuing a warm welcome.
Ten couples arrive each session. During their week-long retreat at the Samaritan's Purse Alaskan wilderness lodge, couples participate daily devotions and outdoor activities like fishing and hiking.
Biblically-based marriage seminars are led by retired military chaplains and their wives cover topics like reconciliation, forgiveness and communication. The opportunity for private spiritual counsel is offered as well.
According to an SP report about the program's first week June 1-5, 11 participants were baptized and six couples renewed their marriage vows.
Justin Lindley and his wife Jasmine were among those baptized last week at the lake near the program site.
Jasmine told Samaritan's Purse her husband can readily list the physical injuries he now bares from combat, but the unseen wounds "are by far the worst," she said explaining that before the program, her husband felt he could never receive God's forgiveness.
"Through all the prayers and everything, it's opened our hearts. We know now we were meant to be here. God called us and brought us here. So we opened our hearts—this is where we were meant to be—this is going to be life-changing for us and we're going to make it through this," she said.
One noteworthy aspect of OHOP is its dedication to follow-up support.
"Aftercare is a critical component of our program that differentiates it from many others," a June 1 release about the program on the SP website states. "Our staff works to contact and encourage couples on a regular basis, help them find a church home, provide crisis response as needed, and more."
Retired Army Sergeant Major Kris Kosem and his wife Rhonda were among the first couples to participate in the program and attest the staff's dedication to help them find long-term healing.
Kris reportedly suffered a brain injury during training for a hostage rescue mission and requires magnetic stimulation treatments.
The Kosem's credited OHOP with helping strengthen their Christian faith which Kris stated is vital to his personal healing.
"If you don't have faith, you're not gonna make it," he told Samritan's Purse. "Eventually you're going to get worn down."
To find out more about this ministry, go online to Operation Heal Our Patriots.