Not an hour goes by for Jim* without reliving the horrors of that day. One moment he was on a fairly typical mission in Iraq. The next he lay trying to clear the dust from his eyes and inventory the full extent of his injuries.
The months that followed seemed like a series of snapshots, each one building upon the last to ensure Jim’s survival. Doctors had prepared him that the odds were against his walking again.
After three surgeries, recovery became Jim’s new mission and perhaps the most grueling of all, trying to make his body move as it had before. Post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury induced nightmares, flashbacks and migraines.
Jim often found it ironic that the virtues of freedom and independence for which he had fought in Iraq became the same virtues he was now fighting for within himself. The stress of recovery, on top of lives interrupted by combat deployments, began to take its toll on Jim, his wife Shannon and their children. A friend of Shannon’s told her about Project Sanctuary and recommended that she submit a family application. Jim wasn’t so sure.
Like Jim, many service members are apprehensive about what to expect at Project Sanctuary. Trust doesn’t come easily with combat veterans. In the end, though, they all seek change, overcoming apprehensions with the hope of starting anew.
At Project Sanctuary, we alleviate those apprehensions, creating a place where every member of the family can truly thrive. In this environment, relationships are renewed, memories made, and tools provided for empowerment. And with at least two years of follow-up support post retreat, families have a partnership they can depend on, even when times get tough.
From the moment Jim, Shannon and their three children arrived at their retreat, they felt welcomed, accommodated and safe. By day two, retreat administrator Neil recalls that Jim truly began to let his guard down.
“We were on a hike, surrounded by warriors with a variety of injuries, even amputations. I think being with them gave Jim the confidence to put himself out there. You could just see from that moment on that he refused to let either his physical limitations or his PTSD define him.”
Jim took part in zip lining and rock climbing, and even left his cane lying next to a log during one of the activities, walking on his own.
“There was a point about halfway through the week when Jim said he wasn’t ready for the retreat to end,” recalls Shannon. “He was looking forward to seeing and talking to people each day.”
At Project Sanctuary, Jim and his family gained the courage to try new things, make new connections and trust once again — changes that will allow them to reach new heights together. With over 1,900 families on our wait list, the grant from Disabled Veterans National Foundation enables us to help more families like Jim’s reconnect, heal, and gain the tools needed to thrive into the future.