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Military Families


Article
Military Families
[7/6/2012]

Source: http://ebird.osd.mil/ebfiles/e20120706897541.html

BARRY PETERSEN: It looks like a carefree hike through the Colorado wilderness, but it is really about military families struggling with years of deployments. And they are here because of this woman, Heather Ehle.

HEATHER EHLE: You remove the distractions from the cell phone, the TV.

PETERSEN: By being out here.

EHLE: By being out here. And it helps bring walls down.

PETERSEN: Breaking walls down is exactly why Ehle started Project Sanctuary, a weeklong retreat for troops and their families. Ehle got her first taste of how a family pays a price for military service when she was a volunteer nurse during the first war in Iraq.

EHLE: The stress of deployments, 10 and a half years of war have really taken a toll. A lot of these children have grown up with one parent, having birthdays by Skype. It's very difficult for them to reunite and to connect.

PETERSEN: Staci and Ty Taylor, with daughters Kameron and Kenidi, came here from Oklahoma, where he is still being deployed as part of National Guard air crew.

For Staci, there is a comfort just from being with other military families facing the same challenges.

STACI TAYLOR: We can say anything and somebody in the room is going know exactly what we've gone through.

PETERSEN: Things for the Taylors were made tougher since their five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder.

TY TAYLOR: Our youngest, Kameron, has had two brain surgeries in the last year. So she is - had a lot of stress in her life for a young girl. This has given her a chance to play and just be a kid for a change.

PETERSEN: Besides all of the outdoor activity, there is plenty of practical learning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was deployed, everything that was extra that he made I did just put on credit cards -

PETERSEN: Like classes on family finances and marriage.

One measure of success, a waiting list of more than 1,000 families. Ehle personally raises $30,000 to pay for the week through fundraisers and private donations, which means the families can come here for free.

PETERSEN: What are you looking for that says to you that this is working?

EHLE: I watch, number one, their facial expressions. You start seeing some smiles. You start seeing some hand-holding. You watch the spouses offer support to one another. Then you watch the kids and then go with each other. It becomes a one big community, one big family.

PETERSEN: What war has taken from these families, time in the Colorado Rockies can begin giving back.
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