Your Family Has Been Selected!

Written by Guest Blogger, Danielle Vincent, wife of USMC SSGT Stephen Vincent (1990-1999) and mother of three. Danielle is a volunteer with Project Sanctuary, PsychArmor, and Healing Household 6. She is passionate about advocating for veteran families.

“Your family has been selected to attend a family retreat!”

The Vincent Family

I wasn’t expecting us to be chosen. I had heard that there was a 2-year waiting list for Project Sanctuary retreats. But we could manage our own travel, so it was a quicker process. We were excited, a little unsure of what to expect. We had been on family retreats before, but this one was touted to be a great one. My husband was not looking forward to it. He usually has a few downer days before he is able to be comfortable in these settings.

We chose the Mt. Hermon location in California, and are so glad we did. The scenery was beautiful, accommodations were comfortable, and the people were kind. We have three children at home, ages 12, 8, and 3. Our older two made friends right away and went off playing. Our 3-year-old doesn’t do too well away from mom and dad, so that was a challenge. There were classes that were just for Steve and me. I was anxious about how the three-year-old would do away from us, in a new place. A kind woman stepped in and offered to push him in his stroller while we attended our class. Later, I found out it was Heather, the CEO of Project Sanctuary! I am so thankful for her, but this was one of several times I would be grateful for her this trip.

My husband snapped out of his funk and did the Adventure Courses with my oldest daughter. They had a blast and got to bond a bit. They normally struggle a bit to connect, so this was nice for them. Steve did the first course with no hands. He thrives on challenging himself. He did the second, more demanding course, upside down in part of the ropes course. Heather got an amazing photo of him inverted. People were inspired, but I just saw impulsiveness and a lackadaisical attitude about safety. I feel like I’m forever the responsible one. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Steve on the adventure course.

I have had to readjust my thinking, though. These types of adventures make him feel alive. All of the rest of the world goes away, his intrusive thoughts are quieted, and he is strong and able. I love this person, and I don’t want to ever take away that amazing feeling from him. He can still do great things.

He inspires people. He can be real and raw and tender. And he can be stoic and determined. At the end of our time at Mount Hermon, Heather pulled him aside and asked him to be a part of Walton’s Warriors. He was so moved by her interest and faith in him. A month later, he flew to Colorado to volunteer at his first retreat. It was hard for both of us. He had some hard times there, but I trusted in the amazing staff to be there and support him. And I had to let go. He made it through and gained some confidence in himself and trust in others.

We are looking forward to volunteering at a retreat as a family this year. There will be challenges. There will be memories made. I’m confident our bonds will be strengthened. Living with mental health conditions and loving someone that has them is hard. And it is worth it. I’m learning to accept myself and others, where we are right now. Wishing things were different or focusing on how things “should be” only increases our suffering. As a wife, mother, caregiver, friend… I keep my head up.

Look for ways to fill your cup, and continue to rise up. Lean on friends, family, battle buddies. Volunteer with organizations that you believe in. Get outside, and breathe the fresh air. Find a hobby that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Rise up. Thank you, Project Sanctuary.