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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  • by 1/180th Wife Location: Oklahoma on Nov 13, 2007 at 09:02 PM
    I called military one source today to inquire on this subject and I was informed that I needed to use tri-care (the insurance provided) so I called them, explained my situation and they informed me that the counseling my husband and I needed to fix our "problems" must be completed by Sunday because that is when the Tri-Care coverage stops. He returned with the group in May of this year, so he hasn't even been home for a year and his counseling needs can't be covered by his insurance even though the person with Military One Source informed me that it was Post Traumatic Stress! So since we can't afford counseling we will be contacting one of the Chaplain's to see if he/she can help. My husband's ETS (Ending Time of Service) fell this year as well...so we hope that we can get help somewhere. If we don't then our marriage might not survive!
  • by billy Location: denison on Nov 13, 2007 at 04:20 PM
    just like the goverment forget about the troops the troops are the back bone to this country we need to do everything we can to help them maybe they should do away with the wrong people on welfair to fund this did you know that 53% of people on welfair are ilegal aliens 53% we feed them insed of our troops well i have had it we have got to do something about this did you see the video of the vetran cuting down the mexican flag becase they had it flying above the american flag i wish i could shake that man hand the problem with this country is the goverment dont want to hurt someone fillings well that BS we have got to do something odr we will fall you can only carry so many people on your back before you fall and my friends we are at that point i am not a racist by no means and somone will say you are but they are illegal they are breaking the law buy being in our country taking money out for welfair that should be funding programs like this one godbless america and god help us
  • by National Guard spouse Location: Cape Coral, FL on Nov 13, 2007 at 02:06 PM
    My husband attended this retreat after he returned from an 18 month deployment to Iraq. It was a life-changing experience, and it saved our marriage. The staff are the most caring and generous group of people I have ever met. Please pass this information on to military members, and support the project if you can!
  • by John Location: Texas on Nov 13, 2007 at 10:53 AM
    When I click on the Phoenix Project link listed above, I get nowhere. Can someone put the correct link up so we can check out their info. and find out how to support this program! It's a great program, but how do we check out more information? That should be working now. Thanks for letting us know.
  • by Non-Military person Location: Sherman on Nov 13, 2007 at 09:15 AM
    My heart goes out to everyone, this is a good re-treat for families and if the President can send the family over Iraq then he should also see to the recovery and re-treat for the family as well, what if it was the President that had to go thru all the soldiers go thru,what would he do or want...
  • by Military Wife Location: Texas on Nov 12, 2007 at 11:20 AM
    I think this is a fabulous thing that the organization is doing. "Debriefing" is just that for our men and women. Getting back into the routine of things where many things may have changed (i.e. the wife running the house)is a difficult strain on a relationship. Many of these men are coming home to new babies. Well, the mom has more than likely got a routine and another body, although loved, is another body. There are SO many factors, I wish there were more organizations like this one! Kudos and good luck on raising $$$$
Sherman 4201 Texoma Pkwy (903) 892 -8123 Ardmore 2624 S. Commerce (580) 223-0946
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