Couple hurt by child’s death and PTSD find new hope
Marriage and faith restored during inspiring week in Alaska
Rob and Tammy Young knew the impact that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have on military veterans and their families. They didn’t anticipate, however, that many years after active duty, PTSD would rear its ugly head in their family.
Military life can be a challenge for families even during the best of times, and Rob and Tammy learned early on that life would be filled with long periods apart, challenging overseas missions, and long-term emotional and psychological impacts.
The couple’s challenges began in 1997 when Rob was taking a training course in Borden, Ontario—leaving his wife, their young son, and infant daughter in New Brunswick at CFB Gagetown.
It was during that time when three-month-old Ginny died from sudden infant death syndrome.
“I felt very alone,” says Tammy. “It made it much harder that we didn’t have any family close by, and Rob wasn’t even there when she passed away.”
At first, the loss brought the couple closer together. But Rob sees now that he began to move past the grief and anger over Ginny’s death faster than Tammy. What they didn’t see then, but understand now, is that this was the first wedge in their relationship.
“The way I handled it wasn’t with great compassion,” Rob says.
Rob and Tammy had the opportunity to go on a fishing trip with guides on the Tanalian River.
For Tammy, Ginny’s death led to resentment towards her husband, frustration because the military offered very little support for families experiencing this type of heartbreak, and an end to what she calls “a loose faith” in God.
“I just kind of curled up inside myself—I was very angry,” she says. “I just felt there’s no way that God could take my beautiful baby girl away from me, and if He did, then I didn’t want anything to do with Him.”
The second wedge came 10 years later, in 2007, when Rob was called to duty in Afghanistan. There, he had the daunting task of removing weapons and explosives after enemy attacks to make the area safe for medics. This often meant witnessing gruesome scenes of injury or death.
“One night I can recall was when one of our vehicles had been bombed,” Rob explains. “There was still a firefight going on close enough that you could see the tracers and hear them. That is a night that sticks with me quite a bit.”
Tammy, still struggling years later with anger and bitterness over Ginny’s death, now faced daily fear that Rob, too, would be taken from her.
"I was very angry... I just felt there’s no way that God could take my beautiful baby girl away from me, and if He did, then I didn’t want anything to do with Him."
Twenty-six Canadians were killed in Afghanistan during Rob’s deployment, and Tammy saw the devastation of families who lost loved ones. Her heart sank one day as she returned to her home on the military base and saw her neighbor being given the somber news that her husband had been killed.
“The raw emotion of that family in that moment was too much, to watch them just crumble on their front step,” she recalls.
Though Rob made it home, for years following his deployment, he didn’t fully understand how much the events in Afghanistan stuck with him.
As the challenges of life piled up (including a cross-country move to be closer to his father dying of cancer, and a career change that added incredible stress) PTSD reared its ugly head, and Rob had a breakdown.
“Everything came out in flashbacks and dreams,” he recalls. “I’d find myself shaking, crying. I was often alone all day and had nothing to do but think about the past. I went to some pretty dark places.”
Eventually, Rob’s instability and Tammy’s struggles caused them to turn on each other. Then they learned about Operation Heal Our Patriots, and knew it was what they needed for their marriage.
Making a Difference in the Lives of Military Veterans
Rob and Tammy were all smiles as they caught a salmon.
Operation Heal Our Patriots offers Canadian military couples an opportunity to reconnect with each other in the picturesque setting of Port Alsworth, Alaska. The week-long stay featured activities in Alaska’s amazing outdoors, and marriage counseling sessions offered from a biblical perspective. The couple was also able to spend time together in God’s creation, and enjoyed a fishing trip alone with two guides on the pristine Tanalian River. The peaceful day was filled with a lot of laughter—and a lot of fish—for the couple.
Rob and Tammy, along with nine other couples, received a hero’s welcome from the tiny community when they landed, and every moment of the week was filled with love and support from staff and volunteers at Samaritan Lodge. That love, they say, changed their view of life, their marriage, and even faith in Christ, which previously had little to no role in their lives.
By the end of the week, Rob and Tammy were among 13 people who accepted Christ as their savior and were baptized in the frigid waters of Lake Clark, where the Samaritan Lodge is located.
“I’m looking forward to this new journey with God in our lives.”
“I’ve given my heart to Jesus now—I want to start living as the man I should be,” says Rob. “I’m looking forward to this new journey with God in our lives.”
Tammy found closure from her years of pain and bitterness, and prepared to go home with a new view and new faith in God.
“I wanted to say sorry to God for closing the door to Him, believing that He took my daughter away from me,” she says. “I know now that He didn’t take her away, but He did receive her. Understanding that has made this all worth it.”
Tammy and Rob were one of the five Operation Heal Our Patriots couples who rededicated their marriage to God and each other.
Rob and Tammy hugging while couples shared their testimonies prior to baptism. The couple was baptized together in Lake Clark.
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