How Kayaking Helps Injured Vets & Active-Duty Military

kayakers in alaska

Operation Heal Our Patriots (OHOP) is a week-long Alaskan marriage retreat focused on strengthening the marriages of injured US military members and veterans.

Founded in 2012, OHOP has served more than 1,220 couples at its Port Alsworth, Alaska lodge. The lodge is located on the edge of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. It’s an ideal location to get away from the pressures of home life and be immersed in the beauty of the surrounding mountains, lake and rivers.

Outdoor activities are an integral part of the programming for these retreats. Kayaking, fishing, hiking and wildlife (especially bear) viewing are all included, and very popular among the participants.

kayakers in operation heal our patriots program

Mark Lang is the Director of Operations and Facilities for OHOP. He explains how they use kayaking to help the couples who come to them:

“One of the first activities of the week is our Kayaking 101 class. This is done using tandem kayaks and teaches the couples that they have to work together to keep the kayak on course.

“The class is taught by experienced guides and includes paddle strokes, seating and position, and safety. This is the first step in developing trust and a relationship with the couples.”

military couple kayaking with operation heal our patriots

After taking the Kayaking 101 class with the instructor, couples are welcome to use the kayaks throughout the week in the nearby bay. An OHOP guide will be on the water as well to help out in any way needed and for extra safety precautions.

“Tandem kayaking very quickly demonstrates the priority of good communication for the success of any team, especially husband and wife. Our couples quickly experience in their kayak what they'll be learning about later in the classroom,” said Greg Duvall, Operation Heal Our Patriots chaplain.

“In order for them to go where they want to go in the kayak, they must work together. And that requires communication. Our couples realize very quickly that marriage is a lot like kayaking!”

Operation Heal Our Patriots is a project of faith-based Samaritan’s Purse. OHOP is open to current and former military members who’ve been injured in combat or combat-related activities after September 11, 2001. All expenses for each couple are covered by Samaritan’s Purse through donations.

To learn more, visit the Operation Heal Our Patriots webpage.

kayakers on Alaska lake

(All photos courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse)

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