Military Ranks Don't Matter

Operation Heal Our Patriots bring participants from brokeness to healing.

The 2016 dates for Canada's Operation Heal our Patriots are September 11 - 16

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In the military, rank matters. A general has far more authority than does a private. And so when Samaritan’s Purse invited 10 wounded Canadian veterans and their spouses for a week-long trip to Alaska for “marriage resiliency” workshops and a wide range of potentially emotional discussions, there was a risk that lower-ranking participants would be intimidated by their higher ranking counterparts.

But that didn’t happen.

“There is no rank here,” said Jeff Hogg, an Air Force Sergeant from Petawawa, ON, in talking about the Operation Heal Our Patriots ministry at the Samaritan Lodge in Port Alsworth. “You’re just a person here. It (rank) doesn’t come up at all.”

Why didn’t it come up? In part because the most senior-ranking Canadian officer participating in Operation Heal Our Patriots intentionally downplayed his status, emphasized the importance of the ministry, and encouraged military person involved to be genuine and vulnerable.

Army Colonel Darryl Mills, from Stittsville, ON, sent an email to his senior colleagues several months before the Alaskan retreat, asking them to tell veterans who were suffering from physical and psychological battle scars to strongly consider applying to be part of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

“Rank shouldn’t be an issue at all,” Darryl said midway through his week in Alaska. “I see rank as being important only in being able to . . . lead by example and setting the conditions or setting the atmosphere that I think would be best or most conducive to people opening up (about their problems).”

Darryl noted anyone who’s been in a combat can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD—an ailment with which most of the 10 Canadian veterans visiting Alaska have been diagnosed—and the resulting damage to his or her marriage.

Read A Message of Love: Operation Heal Our Patriots participants experience the love of Jesus through Samaritan's Purse

“In can happen to a general or it can happen to a private,” he said. “We’re all in this together from that point of view, so it shouldn’t matter what rank (anyone has). It shouldn’t be a conflict or a barrier from getting the help you need.”

Darryl said in the same way an emphasis on rank can discourage lower-ranking military personnel from being vulnerable, it can also discourage higher-ranking personnel from being vulnerable. A senior officer can mistakenly conclude “I’m the leader (so) I’ve got to show my resolve and not be weak in the eyes of my troops.”

Darryl’s wife Kathleen said that as soon as she and her husband arrived in Alaska, they tried to dispel the importance of rank. When they met the other nine Canadian couples, “we didn’t introduce ourselves with his rank. We didn’t put that out there at all . . . so people felt free to talk to us.”

That’s a strategy Operation Heal Our Patriots consistently applies, said marriage workshop co-leader Dan Stephens, a retired U.S. military chaplain. “We don’t share anyone’s rank when introducing people.”

The strategy worked, said Rick Lamothe, a Canadian and former military chaplain who participated in the marriage workshops and other lodge activities to bond with the wounded Canadian veterans and their spouses so he and his wife Donna, also a military veteran, can offer them long-term support.

"Rank indeed did not matter,” Rick said. “What mattered was our common Canadian military connection, our common woundedness, and our common beyond-amazing blessing to be in Alaska. That provided our basis of interaction and connection—not our ranks. We were all common people on the journey of brokenness to wellness.”

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