Saving Our Soldiers

By: Ryan Loyd Email
By: Ryan Loyd Email

Men and women who put themselves in harm's way come home and often times find that their marriages fall apart. That's why the Phoenix Project Retreat, a privately-funded, non-profit organization, has offered week long retreats so couples can reconnect.

The program was founded by Teresa Goforth, who faced her own marriage struggles 30 years after her husband returned from Vietnam. Goforth says over time, her husband's problems (along with frustration and mental issues) grew tremendously until the marriage fell apart.

Goforth made it her mission to start a program to help couples face the issues head on. The program is especially important for Iraq war soldiers who come back home to face a life of kids, bills, and a community that's changed all around them. Soldier John Logan was gone for 16 months.

"For all that time, my wife was taking care of house, kids, and bills. Now here i come trying to bark orders and it doesn't work because she is the one controlling the house," Logan said.

The program saved Richard and Alison Gomez from divorce. "We were pretty much a couple weeks from calling it quits, not wanting to try anything anymore," Richard said.

While her husband was fighting in the war on terror, Richard's wife battled feelings of abandonment. Wiping back tears, she said, "There's only so much talking to a 2 and 3 year old you can do. You go home and you're by yourself. It's like you're a single parent, but you can't date and you don't have a companion. You have your family but they have their own lives, so you're pretty much by yourself."

Thousands of couples have been through this retreat. And it's all free of charge. Through donations, the project has been able to fly couples from their homes across the country, and offer them counseling, horseback riding, massages, and other activities to help couples find each other again. Unfortunately, though, that's all changing. With a lack of funding, the project is at a critical point. Several retreats have already been canceled because of the money shortage.

"It seems it's easier to raise funds [to send couples to] Disney Land, rather than getting them help," Goforth said.

Part Two

Many programs are available for soldiers and their families to get the help that they need. In Part One of our special report, Saving Our Soldiers, we told you about the Phoenix Project Retreat. It's a non-profit, privately-funded program to help soldiers and their spouses learn how to communicate again once the soldier comes back from war. It's saved so many marriages.

Counsel Mary Nguyen said, "These are people who've put their entire body, mind and soul on hold to take care of the needs of this country... then they come back, and to get back into family situation with all the issues of guilt -- of surviving when others did not -- to see all that [is] very difficult to do on your own."

The Phoenix Project Retreat is in need of funding. Because it does rely on private donations to pay for all expenses during the week, the money has run out. Founder Teresa Goforth estimates it costs nearly $100,000 to make one week happen. "Those donations go directly to soldiers. they need this," Goforth said.

Charles, a Gulf War Veteran, said that he has sought help from the Veterans' Administration. He's been getting counseling for seven years. He divorced his first wife when he arrived back from service and has faced a custody battle for his children. But now he has moved on and is in his second marriage. Without counseling, Charles said this marriage wouldn't have worked either.

"With my current wife, she and i have participated in counseling so that she can better understand some of my experiences. She couldn't understand why I won't sit with my back to the door at Dairy Queen or [why I have] difficulty driving in a city," Charles said.

Military personnel say that there are many programs available. Unfortunately, the Phoenix Project has faced its share of problems. Col. Pat Scully with the Oklahoma Naitonal Guard says where one door closes, another one opens.

"A lot of times we can see physical wounds, but sometimes we can't see the mental wounds. And we have support programs in place that the family and soldiers can seek," Col. Scully said.

Major Lindy White works with people who need counseling or other rehabilitation services. She said, "There are so many resources available. Sometimes they're afraid to, but our job is to let them know help is there." Some of the military's programs include Military One Source or the Family Readiness Group, which assembles family members together to help prepare them and the soldier for an impending deployment.

Chaplains, like Teddy Wilson, are also available for help. "What really juices me up is to see people through those critical [and] hurtful times. They give me the privilage to walk through it with them," Wilson said.

Couples like Richard and Alison Gomez say the Phoenix Project retreat saved their marriage. John and Chery Logan also received help, learning how to communicate with one another again. John said the Phoenix Project offered more help than what the military could.

"They offer a de-briefing. They do offer the VA clinic, so if you have any problems you can talk to counselor.

"But they don't submerge you in a process. There are so many soldiers, it would be difficult to get them all in a week long program. How many people are going to say, "I have a problem? That's a sign of weakness. You can't handle your wife? Suck it up and drive on," he said.

Getting Help

Whatever source the help came from, soldiers who've been through any form of counseling say that it is important. If you need assistance on getting started, you can contact the Veterans Administration through www.va.gov. To learn more about the Phoenix Project Retreat, log on to http://www.phoenixprojectretreat.org. To make a donation or to ask questions, contact the director, Teresa Goforth, at director@phoenixprojectretreat.org, or call 214-987-9247.

If you'd like to receive information about Military OneSource as mentioned in our report, Saving Our Soldiers, you can visit www.militaryonesource.com. The Family Readiness Group is one more source to help families and their soldiers cope with deployment issues, among others. To get started, and to learn about the vast amount of opportunities to get involved with this program, visit this link.

Thank You

KXII would like to thank the Phoenix Project Retreat, along with its founder and director, Teresa Goforth, and counselor Mary Nguyen, for helping with this series with information and video used in the stories. KXII would also like to extend appreciation to the Oklahoma National Guard (Oklahoma City) and Col. Pat Scully, Maj. Lindy White, and Chaplain Teddy Wilson for talking about the programs available for assistance.

A special thanks also to Richard & Alison Gomez, John & Cheryl Logan, and "Charles," for allowing us to tell their personal story in order to encourage more people to become active in seeking help.

Finally, thank you to Justin Herndon and WINK-TV, Ft. Myers, FL and KWTV, Oklahoma City, OK, for providing information and video.

First News AM airs every weekday morning from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. on KXII-TV Channel 12. Join Lisanne Anderson, Ryan Loyd, Nicole Holt, and Tom Miller for everything you need to know before you walk out the door!


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