Operation Heal Our Patriots: Chris and Paula
Operation Heal Our Patriots participants grateful for the experience of a lifetime.
Chris and Paula Carpenter are Warrant Officers in the Canadian Armed Forces who’ve served overseas a combined eight times. Their deployments to Bosnia, Uganda, Kosovo, and several times to Afghanistan, plus time at various training exercises, have kept the Ottawa couple apart for more than half of their 18-year marriage.
So much time away from each other would strain any relationship. Theirs was undergoing even greater pressure due to Chris’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that was diagnosed in 2001. At the time, PTSD wasn’t widely known or understood. It was difficult to find specialists inside or outside the Canadian military who were aware of it or knew how to treat it.
“We had to really struggle to get help,” said Chris, in noting his PTSD symptoms included nightmares, sleeplessness, anger, and withdrawal from human contact with anyone, including Paula. “There was no support network. I was angry all the time, and I didn’t communicate with anyone. I was floundering.”
Fortunately, with Paula advocating for him when Chris was unable to seek help himself, they eventually found a knowledgeable and effective specialist. The regular therapy didn’t eliminate Chris’ PTSD (“it’s part of me now—and part of us now,” he says), but the sessions did teach him coping skills.
When asked what atrocities or violent incidents caused his PTSD, Chris says the coaching he and many other PTSD patients have received means “we don’t talk about the incidents. We talk about the feelings and the effects of that on our bodies.”
Chris and Paula are grateful for the support they received from their time at Operation Heal Our Patriots.
His PTSD therapy proved to be so successful that Chris was able, after a medical leave, to return to work and eventually serve two deployments in Afghanistan. But that has also meant more time apart from Paula, who has her own busy military career while they raise their two daughters.
Recognizing the need to focus more on their relationship, Chris and Paula applied to become part of Operation Heal Our Patriots—a Samaritan’s Purse ministry that offers wounded military veterans and their spouses the opportunity to spend a week at our Alaskan lodge on scenic Lake Clark.
The 10 couples hosted at the lodge each week during the summer months have a variety of memorable recreational opportunities to choose from—including guided hiking, salmon fishing, kayaking, and grizzly bear watching from a float plane. But the focal point of the ministry are several marriage enrichment workshops that teach effective communication and other relationship skills.
More than 500 U.S. military couples have been guests at the Samaritan Lodge in southern Alaska since Operation Heal Our Patriots began in 2013. In September 2015, with the financial and prayer support of Canadian donors, the first wounded veterans and their spouses from Canada were able to participate in this unique ministry.
Click here to learn more about Operation Heal Our Patriots
Chris and Paula were one of those first 10 Canadian couples. They said they applied because their careers and family lives have been so busy that their relationship needed attention.
“The people talking to us (during the marriage sessions) are military people who have lived this (high-stress, often-apart-from-each-other military lifestyle),” Paula said. “They get it, and we really like that.”
"It’s been the experience of a lifetime. I have never felt so loved.”
Chris and Paula also like the Christian perspective from which the marriage material was presented. Although Chris doesn’t come from a Christian family and was a bit fearful he’d be “preached at” during Operation Heal Our Patriots, “it’s been nothing like that. I’ve really enjoyed the (morning) devotions and the religious aspects of this. In fact, I’d love to come back here and volunteer. It would be awesome.”
Paula said the Operation Heal Our Patriots employees and volunteers were so loving and supportive during the week she and Chris spent in Alaska that they will always remain grateful.
“It’s been the experience of a lifetime. I have never felt so loved. We are completely honored to be part of this.”
Ways you can help
Prayer is the most important gift you can give. Please keep these specific requests in your prayers:
Ask God to protect our military personnel serving overseas.
Pray for those service members who have been injured or wounded.
Pray for the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots.
You can help bring a military couple to Samaritan Lodge Alaska for a life-changing retreat they desperately need and provide ongoing follow-up care for years to come. Your gift helps provide these husbands and wives the spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment they critically need. Donate Here