Samaritan's Lodge Alaska: A Patriotic Place To Heal

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by Natalie Travis

(Port Alsworth, AK)  Our country has lost countless men and women to war, along with many seriously wounded. Even after coming home, healing isn't an easy path, often horrific for both the soldier and the spouse who's lives will never be the same. Now after years of work, the Samaritan's Purse is getting ready to welcome and host more than 80 wounded warrior couples at a summer retreat free of charge.

Port Alsworth is on the east shore of Lake Clark at Hardenburg Bay. Where military personnel and their spouses get to spend a free week, normally officials say  could run about $6,000.

" 'Thank God for the fruit and the resources that made this possible for every volunteer who paid their own way to participate in this project," said Luther Harrison. Samaritan's Purse Vice President of North American Ministries.

The project is Samaritan's Lodge Alaska, refurbished from an old lakeside fishing lodge, near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The focus of Operation Heal our Patriots according to officials is marriage enrichment.

"Your entire life has been disrupted, particularly for the spouse, many people just think of the wounded services man," said Brigadier General Jim Walker, Senior Advisor of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

The camp boasts things like cabins, a small gym, tackle shop and a dinning area.

 "They might remember their last meal sitting in a dinning facility in Afghanistan or Iraq, now they are going to be sitting here looking out at Lake Clark, it'll be quite a change," Walker said.

Guests will be taken almost completely away from everyday distractions.

 "There's no T.V. here, we have one T.V. in our main lodge room called the Bunker, and we do not have internet or cell service," said Walker.

Perhaps one of the most important features is the fact that volunteers say they worked very hard to make sure things were handicap accessible, adding ramps, making sure things like entrances to cabins, planes and boats were the right size, ensuring everyone felt comfortable.

"They can walk through the entire camp, we have a float plane, that will provide some of the recreational activities, for the fishing and bear watching, and also we have a unique boat that has a drop down bow, like an amphibious craft so we can get any walking difficulties or even a wheel chair to go out fishing," Walker said.

Knowing first hand what the lodge intentions are, is 32-year-old Captain Scotty Smiley for the U.S. Army who was wounded on assignment.

"To wake up two weeks later blind the rest of your life, was hard, I didn't understand why or the reasoning behind it, and it's a dark depressive state where you don't try to get out, you dig deeper and deeper into  this black ominous hole," said Smiley. Smiley also says, his marriage is one thing keeping  him going." It was people like my wife who stood by my side, friends and family who continue to pray for me."

Today {9-21-12} is a celebration before the first couples arrive Sunday. Wrapping up with a dedication and a prayer asking for many years ahead of successful rejuvenation.

Volunteers say about 15 people will be on site throughout the summer to help run the retreat.

Samaritan's Purse is a North Carolina-based international christian relief organization and says it works in more than 100 countries to aid victims of war, disease, poverty, famine and persecution.

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