Most people think of Lake Clark as an exclusive slice of remote Alaska. A trip to Port Alsworth can cost you thousands of dollars in travel and lodging, just from Anchorage.

But every summer, for 16 weeks, groups of wounded veterans and their spouses arrive 10 couples at a time – for an all-expenses-paid trip to heal from the trauma of war.

This week on Frontiers, we bring you an in-depth look at “Operation Heal Our Patriots” run by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization better known for responding to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires.

Here are some of the highlights of this week’s show:

  • Post Traumatic Growth: A look at the struggles of veterans and their spouses, to overcome injuries from war. Family life often falls by the wayside, when a veteran faces repeated surgeries or hospitalization.
  • Rituals of Recovery: Couples go on bear viewing and fishing trips, excursions that are intermingled with Biblical discussions about marriage and post-traumatic stress from a spiritual perspective.
  • Guests: Capt. James Fisher, a retired Navy chaplain -- and his wife, Lori -- share their experiences at the Port Alsworth retreat, where they spend their summers working with couples. They talk about the difficulty families experience, coping with unseen injuries like brain trauma, caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

So far, more than 800 couples have taken part in the program since it began in 2012. Samaritan’s Purse keeps track of those couples and holds an annual reunion in the Lower 48. It says wounded veterans who go through the Lake Clark program experience lower rates of divorce and suicide than the general population.

Contact reporter Rhonda McBride by email.

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