FAMILIES OF PROJECT SANCTUARY: Why We Went and What It Meant

Smith Family #138
We signed up for Project Sanctuary to help strengthen our family bond after my husband retired. It has been hard to come together and sometimes with life we forget to connect how we truly needed to. At the retreat we learned so many wonderful tools that were presented in a way that even the most hard headed military member would still be willing to try the program.

My husband is usually anti anything that helps but he took the tools he learned and it has helped tremendously. Since the retreat we have learned to communicate better and actually listen to what our family members need. We no longer are trying to talk over each other but actually help each other more.

I would want those who support Project Sanctuary to know that they are not just supporting another run of the mill military organization. They truly care, have amazing staff who go above and beyond to learn everything they can about everyone they can at the retreats and help everyone get the most out of the retreats. Like they say you will get what you put into it and it has been life changing! Thank you for what you do!

Elliot Family #126
We signed up for Project Sanctuary because we were looking for an opportunity to become closer as a family. My husband’s disability has/had taken a toll on our family and our relationship and we were interested in finding ways to better communicate so that we could rebuild our relationship. At the retreat, our biggest breakthrough was learning to really listen to each other. We both really enjoyed the knee to knee concept, and though we have not really worked on this a lot since the retreat, it is something that we have been talking about practicing regularly again.

Since the retreat, we have learned to really listen to each other, but to also give each other space. This is not the normal relationship that many families have, it is different and a learning experience that we continue to process through. I would want those who support Project Sanctuary to know how important their support is: they are offering families a great respite from their daily grind, they are offering families a place to network and find others who are facing similar situations and that they are not alone.

Jachimiec Family #139
We were referred to Project Sanctuary and signed up for a retreat because our family was in a very dark place after the suicide of my brother, Adam Jachimiec, USMC, in July 2017. This was coupled with knowing Jen’s active duty career would in in July 2018. Unknown to us were many hidden stressors and future challenges. This came our after the 1 Oct Vegas shooting and other suicide attempts I would witness.
Scott Family #141
We signed up for Project Sanctuary because we wanted to do something as a family to better understand our Veteran.  We wanted to heal as a family and PS was the only one that offers something for families. At the retreat, we loved spending time together with no outside distractions.  It was fun just to be us.

Henry Family #136
Project Sanctuary was God’s gift to us and our marriage. Thank you will never be enough for what this retreat has given to so many families. Strangers became family, marriages became stronger, people laughed, cried, bonds were reunited & rekindled and we all left with some kind of HOPE. As long as there’s HOPE, there’s still LIFE.

The staff and volunteers at Project Sanctuary are genuine people who care about our military families. They have stepped out on the battlefield with us to help us defeat our enemies of unhealthy marriages, ineffective communication, threats against our families, PTS(D), fear, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, etc. The knowledge & tools provided to us is invaluable and something that we can use for years to come. The added bonus is that the help doesn’t stop at the retreat. The services offered, knowledge and tools is ongoing for our families and that’s remarkable!

Hunsucker Family #137
Our family signed up for Project Sanctuary so that we could have a chance to reconnect and grow as a family. Personally, I wanted to connect with other veterans and learn tools to help me be a better father and husband. Our family got way more out of the retreat than I expected or could have hoped for. We were able to refocus our communication skills, set long term financial goals, and with the help of the counselor, have a plan to address PTSD issues. The kids also gained a ton of confidence from the rock climbing and ropes course activities, not to mention met some great new friends. Thank you so much!
Velazquez Family #136
We signed up with Project Sanctuary because I wanted to have a unique experience for my husband and for my children. I wanted them to appreciate the nature and have a time to spend together as a family. I signed up because I wanted my family to have unforgettable memories. We left with a clearer mind and my family with an unforgettable memory. Thanks Project Sanctuary for giving us an unforgettable experience in the mountains appreciating the creation of God! God bless you!
Vasquez Family #136
I signed up my family up in hopes of enjoying some quality family time before my husband deploys this year. After getting the email stating we were selected we were so excited. We hit some road blocks that the PS staff helped us get over. Once we got here, not only did we reconnect with each other, but also other military families. Everything about this trip was what dreams are made of for us. The endless stories our kids are sharing from their time here, to learning about my husband and myself.

Lengeman Family #89
In March 2016, my family and I went through our retreat in Texas. I did not know what to expect from Project Sanctuary. After my retreat with Project Sanctuary my family and I had a new understanding of one another. I was able to communicate to my family. I was able to see our financial goals. Through the ongoing follow up that Project Sanctuary does my wife was able to find a Care Giver Support group.

Like most families, I was able to volunteer at a retreat. Since I had a special set of skills, I was fortunate enough to become part of the Project Sanctuary Retreat Team. Once again I was faced with challenges in which I weren’t noticeable until after I have dealt with some other stuff. Project Sanctuary was there to provide to find a specialized addiction therapist to meet my current set of challenges. Project Sanctuary was also able to financial support to help get my addiction recovery going. Through my volunteer and paid work through Project Sanctuary I have experienced the unconditional love and support.

Wilson Family #106
Though there have been some really incredible moments in the last 1 1/2 years, Tyler and I have also experienced more than our fare share of really rough moments. These rough patches and feeling like we had been in a constant state of chaos or survival mode for a year made us realize it was time to focus on us. Focus on the us that is Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, not advocates for others, not soon-to-be parents, not the us we are to other people, but the us we are to one another. It was time for us to hit “reset” and experience our relationship and marriage for the first time without as many obligations, outside influences, or turmoil. Finally, we realized and accepted we NEEDED some “us time” (aka “me time”) in order to continue to be the best version of ourselves we can and to reset going into the new year and all of our life changes.

Thanks to some friends we found just the right avenue to pursue this goal. We applied and were accepted to a family retreat for Project Sanctuary, whose mission is to…provide therapeutic, curative, supportive and recreational activities to veterans, active military personnel, their spouses and children in a leisure environment. We are dedicated to providing a safe environment where individuals and their families who have been affected by their service in the military may spend both leisure and structured time with their families and fellow service members in an effort to diminish the wearisome impact of returning home after a considerable period away while serving the interests of the country.

It took a little getting used to for me, as I am not used to being on this side of things as a participant, but it turned out the entire retreat and this organization was just what we needed! One of the things Tyler and I tend to do that doesn’t fit well into our health and wellness model is focus all of our energy on others. This retreat however, forced us to focus on our needs and goals. We were able to reconnect in a stress-free environment, spend quality time doing things we love like mountain biking and shooting archery (I had a great time at this since I have NEVER been able to shoot a higher score than Tyler in ANYTHING related to shooting until this trip 🙂 ), tried new things together (Tyler hasn’t been around horses since he was a kid, but Brisby made sure to change that!), learned new skills, and found some new purpose in our heath and wellness  journey.

All in all, we gained so much more from the week than we could have every expected, and for that we will be forever grateful to Project Sanctuary. This organization has not only allowed, but encouraged and supported us to hit our “reset” button and to be ok with taking some “us time”! Thank you for everything you have helped us achieve and we look forward to continuing to build on these opportunities!

http://www.pushmeeveryday.com/hitting-the-reset-button/

Speers Family #135
I signed up for our family for Project Sanctuary during my husband’s second of back-to-back deployments. In the past two years only spending four or so months together I knew we needed something big. This retreat provided exactly what we needed, the time away from distractions to reconnect as a family and a couple. During the retreat we learned not only how important it is to dedicate the time to each other, but how much our kids were missing being together as a family. We left the retreat refocused on what’s important and tools to strengthen and grow together.
Henneman Family #135
We signed up for Project Sanctuary to reconnect as a family to learn new ways to communicate and explore new ideas on understanding how our relationship with each other work. Our expectations of what we learned and received have blown us away. We were treated with so much kindness, love and support. Thank you for giving us the time to be a family without any distractions. We were able to focus on us and our family unit. We have learn so much and we are using the tools  we learned everyday to help us communicate and plan to  continue using them. Our children and ourselves  will forever remember the memories we have made here with Project Sanctuary.

Haaf Family #128
I really enjoyed the family retreat held at Project Sanctuary at Utah. There was clear respect and acceptance among those who willingly shared openly about their struggles, fears and anger since returning from their combat tours and experiences. I have never felt more secure and safe in the company of my brothers and their wives this weekend.

I again cannot thank you enough for the hard work you and the other volunteers do for veterans through Project Sanctuary. It is without a doubt the most rewarding and helpful sessions I have ever attended and my family enjoyed. As I said before, what was really heartwarming to me was that there are still some people who really do care again. I can never thank you enough.

Richmond Family #29
I got home the 15th of November 2010, and went back to work at the fire department after Christmas. It was soon apparent to others that I was not the same TR that deployed in October of 2009. I had a quick temper. If I did not know you I did not want to know you. I withdrew from my family and friends. That’s when Kate signed us up for PS and we went Nov 2012 driving out from Connecticut.

I was just looking to get a mostly free vacation in Colorado but we got much more. While there we met and worked with Heather Ehle, Missy, the Daubs, the Uteches and Pepe. We had fun and the kids enjoyed themselves with was very little fighting for a week. But it was not until I got home that what we learned and what I was really feeling was felt.

So, I went to the VA to get help and what do you know, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I never thought I would have PTSD. I was old, been there done that. I did not weigh how much living somewhere where someone is actively trying to kill you can effect your mind. That next year the family volunteered for the first time during the March retreat at Snow Mountain Ranch. Then, that October Missy called and asked if I could come up and run the kitchen. I’ve been doing that know for at least 12 retreats a year.

Patterson Family #100
I signed up for Project Sanctuary because as I was coming back from Iraq, I was a mess in my head. I wanted peace in my life and my marriage. When I got to the retreat I did not know what to expect. But, what happened was a change for the better. I Love Heather and all of you who helped me to understand that what happened over in Iraq was not my fault when my guys got blown up or we got hit by an IED.

Through your program I’ve learned to understand that things happen beyond our control. I had to learn that in our marriage and now I am doing so much better. I even signed up to be a peer mentor with Project Sanctuary. That’s how good I’m doing now. Thank you all for what I have learned from the retreat with Project Sanctuary. Be blessed always.

Humphries Family #29
My wife LaTronda reached out to Project Sanctuary in an all out last ditch effort, for a non-medicinal remedy to simply begin again. I was disconnected, always medicated, I had given up on myself and the will to even try to survive. Project Sanctuary was gifted in unforgettably re-introducing me to my wife, both my son’s Marvin and Princeton at a time where I was physically present but not home. Project Sanctuary has always been good at recognizing me as a hero, but this organization opened my eyes to the heroes who never gave up on me. My family is the most important thing to me, and Project Sanctuary gave me tools to stay on the journey to fight for my health and fight for them. MISSION IN PROCESS… 

Davis Family #132
We signed up for Project Sanctuary to learn to be a family again. We were just going through the days as if it was a chore. We learned how to talk to each other and bond with each other. We were able to gain our family back and do more things as a family instead of independent activities.

Project Sanctuary helped us save our marriage and realize what’s really important in life. We no longer just go through the motions of the day we go through the days with purpose. Thank you Project Sanctuary we truly owe it all to you!

Padilla Family #100
We attended a Project Sanctuary retreat in New York. It was a wonderful Retreat that helped my husband and I both learn the necessary tools to cope with his combat PTSD. My husband dealt PTSD with after being a military police officer for 12 of the 26 years he served in the US Army. After his 18 month combat tour in Iraq and Afghanistan during both the OEF and OIF wars, he left one person as one person and came back another.

He used to be outgoing, funny, and sociable. But, he came back isolated, angry, moody, withdrawn. It affected our marriage, his relationship with friends and family, and most importantly our children. He was always used to putting on that poker face from the military. Looking and acting like things were okay, even if they weren’t. He was no longer able to do that. It was a tremendous daily stress on our family trying to adjust to our new normal. Military marriages and our own family go through a lot. The divorce rate is very high among military families for a variety of reasons. Then, you add the affects of combat with both visible and the invisible wounds.

Project Sanctuary is an organization that walks the walk and talks the talk. They gave us a part of our life back. They helped bring the joy back in our lives again. They gave the laughter back to my husband. The beautiful retreat took us away from daily life stressors. They let us simply concentrate by supplying you with love and support. They gave us information to take it from Post Traumatic Stress to Post Traumatic Growth.

The thing I love most about Project Sanctuary is that it includes the entire family. They realize that PTSD is a family issue and affects the entire family. If you only treat and teach the veteran the tools, then you’re setting that family up for failure. We are a team and it takes us both knowing what to do and how to deal with PTSD.

Heather, the founder, is amazing. She is in this for all the right reasons. She loves military families. Love and support was shown and felt by her and all of her staff. We are so much better after attending this retreat. It’s not a vacation. It’s work. You have to trust the process. You will get out of the retreat what you put into it. Be authentic and do the work. Don’t waste the gift of this retreat is.

I would tell a future Project Sanctuary family that the team is there to support you 100 percent. Project Sanctuary continues to pay it forward by making a difference in the lives of so many wounded warriors and their families. We are forever thankful and grateful for our Project Sanctuary family.

Davis Family #129

We honestly signed up for Project Sanctuary because of the VACATION! Well, at least that’s how I sold it to my family, and why I thought we were going. Before arriving we had been growing more detached, stressed, and less cohesive as a family, and I found myself saying, “I don’t have the time,” or “hurry up, we’re late, you’re out of time!” in most of our family interactions. To say it plainly we were a hot mess when we arrived.

At the retreat, we pressed pause as a family and confronted some hard truths about ourselves. It was at that moment that we realized the true mission of Project Sanctuary. You see, we were able to connect as husband and wife through the marriage seminar, take a real look at where we are financially, and learn some tools to help us when we returned to our lives.

Project Sanctuary helped us begin to heal as a family when we didn’t even realize the extent of our wounds. We had fun tubing, hiking, swimming, tumbling, making s’mores, and listening to one another. My children have memories that they still talk about today, and it fills me with joy to see the impact that a ‘vacation’ had on us. Because believe me when I say I did not leave Disneyland feeling this changed as a family.

Kent Family #92
I don’t remember how I found out about Project Sanctuary but I am sure it was during my desperate Google search for help. My husband needed help for PTSD, couldn’t work, and the VA was …being the VA. Then one day I got a call to verify my email address. A week later, I received an email asking if we wanted to go on a retreat. I was skeptical about it actually helping; however, if was the beginning of a much better life for my entire family. Finally, we met people who got it. I found resources that help us. Thank you Heather and team.

Sutton Family #133
We signed up for Project Sanctuary because we wanted some constructive family time without the daily distractions. Our youngest daughter was a day shy of a month old and our oldest was 18 months old when Matt left. Matt felt that he missed out on a pretty crucial part of our children’s lives and we both wanted to spend time reconnecting with them.

At our retreat, we learned how important family was to us and not to avoid conflict but to deal with it effectively. We also learned some new personality traits, how ours differ and how we can approach each other based on our differences. Finally, we learned that stress is the number one hurdle in our life and we need do our best every day to manage it safely with the new tools we gained.

Morgan Family #119
After my service in the Navy, I came back changed. I no longer wanted to participate in life, I was just a passenger. I applied for Project Sanctuary right after I had my daughter Elizabeth. Right then, I knew I had to change. Someone else was relying on me to support them.

Well, obstacles got in my way and I was pregnant with my son William. At this point we requested financial assistance to get away and spend family time. The retreat was life changing. My family began talking to one another and we opened the line of communication. Project Sanctuary was just the beginning. Because of this retreat, we now take time as a family at least twice a month. I cannot tell you how much this family binding time meant to us.

Sullivan Family #122/129
We signed up for Project Sanctuary because it was a FREE retreat! Seriously, we needed a free retreat! Little did we know, Project Sanctuary is so much more than just a free retreat or how much this mission would impact the rest of our lives.

The past six years of our marriage had been tough, wrought with many difficulties including loss and death, a hard deployment, five moves, and difficult pregnancies.  We had been living in survival mode for years, not realizing how badly our family and relationships were suffering or how much we needed to reconnect.

We felt lucky when we were offered a chance to attend a couples retreat during our 10 year anniversary.  How amazing would it be to go on a retreat on our anniversary!  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reconnect and when my Mom offered to watch our two children, we couldn’t say no.

The retreat was beyond eye opening to say the least.  We didn’t know how much we were both hurting or what was causing our issues; PTSD, depression, hurt, loss, anger, triggers, miscommunication, and disconnect all ailed our marriage.  We learned all this from attending the marriage classes, opening up and being vulnerable with ourselves, our spouses, and also, suprisingly, with the other couples at the retreat.  It’s amazing how much we, as military families, forget that the people around us are suffering just as much as we are.  We isolated ourselves from the people who would understand us best even though we are all living through similar situations and dealing with the same difficulties; PTSD, depression, hurt, loss, anger, triggers, miscommunication, and disconnect…sound familiar?  Project Sanctuary opened our hearts to how much we all can relate to each other, even though we come from different walks of life.

We gained so much perspective and skills from our retreats.  It changed everything from how we connect, how we parent, how we work together during both the good times and bad, the importance of keeping our marriage a priority and to always keep communication open so we felt safe to share.  We also gained life-long friends who are there for us through thick and thin and we for them. We learned that Project Sanctuary is not “just” a free retreat, it changes lives for the better while bringing you close to those that matter most in your life, your family and your military friends.

Vincent Family #130
As a blended military family, we struggle to find ways to build positive memories and connect in ways that strengthen our bond. Project Sanctuary was all it said it would be, and more. At our retreat, my husband and I learned that even though we approach challenges differently, we can work together. Sitting knee-to-knee with him, in the relationship class, was really moving for us. The staff and volunteers treated us like family. Our kids had such a wonderful time, making new friends and challenging themselves in different activities.

My husband is now looking forward to being involved with Walton’s Warriors and continues to challenge himself physically and mentally. I am sharing our story to encourage other families to make the leap and learn more about Project Sanctuary.

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