Operation Purple Healing Adventures is known for providing a relaxing getaway for wounded warriors and their families utilizing the healing properties of nature. And this past weekend was no exception. Set in the beautiful backdrop of Bainbridge Island, Washington, the National Military Family Association hosted 17 military families at our most recent weekend family retreat—which fell on Veterans Day weekend. Families from all branches of the military came together to connect with others who have experienced a wound, injury, or illness as a result of their military service.
Weekend getaway reconnects Special Forces family
The McKenzie family was one of many who shared with us their journey as they worked through all of the challenges and effects of dad’s service. Joseph served in Army Special Operations for more than 20 years and has 11 deployments under his belt. He wasn’t aware of his PTSD until several years ago when others began to point it out to him. He and his family have been working together through the challenges of living with PTSD as they find a new normal. Getting away for the weekend gave them a chance to step outside the normal schedules and triggers and focus inward on their family dynamic. “This reminded me how much I love nature. It showed me how much healing, in a short time, our family really needs.”
Jennifer, Joseph’s wife, told us this Healing Adventures experience was the first time her 16-year old daughter said that she enjoyed spending time with the family. “I asked her if she would want to come back to another experience like this and she said, ‘Absolutely.’ She usually isolates herself from us and is never excited to do anything with the family, but this time she appreciated reconnecting.”
Healing Adventures helps strengthen the family unit bond
We heard from most families that their favorite aspect of the weekend was the team building courses. In many cases, families had never participated in outdoor activities focused on communication and working together as a family unit before.
Throughout the weekend, families engaged with each other and with the families around them. Most nights, we’d see multiple families hanging around the campfire or sitting outside the dining hall chatting and swapping stories.
One of those stories came from Erica, a caregiver spouse and mom of three boys. Her husband’s recovery from his injury started several years ago when he had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat. At the time, she was in the middle of pursuing her degree in social work when life came to a grinding halt. Now, seven years later, she is back in school continuing her education.
So much of the nation’s focus is on the wounded warriors themselves, but many forget about the families that stand behind them. Spouses, children, and parents alike put their own needs aside to be caregivers to our injured service members. Jennifer McKenzie explained, “Having everything taken care of – from the food to the cleaning to the organizing – really took the stress off caregiving and allowed us to focus on our family and having fun together at Healing Adventures.”
NMFA is grateful to our nation’s service members and their families and we are honored to be able to provide a Healing Adventures opportunity to these deserving heroes. Many thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project, who funded our Healing Adventures at Islandwood in Bainbridge Island, and to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation , who provided travel stipends to the families so they could have quality time together without the financial worry.
By Hannah Pike