When you hear someone mention Operation Heal Our Patriots, what comes to mind? In the last year and a half of serving as the OHOP Program Coordinator, I have found that one word describes the project for me—hope.
The work of OHOP begins even before a couple presses the “submit” button on their application and extends beyond the week in Alaska for those who are selected to attend. You see, for the veterans and their spouses who we serve, life has taken a dramatic turn, and the losses they have experienced have been overwhelming.
They have driven through deserts in fear not knowing when or where they may encounter an improvised explosive device or enemy gunfire. It’s a fear many of them took home when they returned to interstate highways and country roads.
They have held the hands of friends as they lay dying and wondered why they were allowed to live.
They have suffered the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries that affect the way they respond to the world around them. Many of them live in silent prisons that most of the world doesn’t understand because, on the outside, they look OK.
In the words of one unforgettable applicant from last year, they have gone “from Jason Bourne to Forrest Gump.” Spouses have made sudden transitions to that of full-time caregivers for the love of their lives who came home in body—but really never came home.
In Job 17:15, we find a great man who also suffered much loss. In the face of this loss, he asks these questions: “Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” (NKJV). It’s these same questions with which couples come to us. Some are afraid there is no hope; others doubt that hope is for them.
This became truer than ever for me in July. It was a normal Thursday, and we had made it to 4 p.m. I always spend a portion of my Thursdays calling the couples for the upcoming week to go over last minute details and answer questions. When my phone rang and the caller ID popped up the cell number for Krizia Silva, wife of Staff Sargent Arnaldo Silva, I assumed it would be a quick, routine call. But it quickly became apparent that this conversation would be anything but routine. Krizia’s only question was, “Is it really a big deal if we don’t come?”
As the person who schedules all the travel, it pained me to hear—but that pain was about more than just potential squandered donor funds over a canceled ticket and an empty cabin. It was painful to hear someone without hope.
She wasn’t interested in a weeklong excursion with a disengaged husband struggling with PTSD. She was tired of pretending everything was OK and didn’t want to bring the other couples down. She didn’t have the energy to pretend for a week. She was done, possibly with marriage altogether.
After an hour conversation—and a promise to Krizia that she could call and yell at me after the trip if she had a horrible experience—she agreed to take a chance and go to Alaska. I didn’t hear from her immediately upon her return, but I did get call from her about two weeks later. Instead of yelling, she said thank you.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Port Alsworth, Arnaldo and Krizia accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. They finished their week in Alaska with rededicating their marriage and Arnaldo being baptized. As Krizia told me about her experience, she said, “OHOP is not a cure; it’s not a quick fix. But it gave us something we never had before. Now, we have hope!”
Because OHOP is based on the truth that healing comes only through Jesus Christ, there are many more stories similar to Arnaldo and Krizia’s—stories of those who have lost much yet are living today with a sure hope that can be found only in Jesus Christ. Like Job, they too know their Redeemer lives. He has given them new birth into a living hope. I pray their stories will challenge you to keep praying for the ministry of OHOP, even after the doors of the Lodge are closed for the summer.Donate to Operation Heal Our Patriots