WOLCOTT, Colorado – It's estimated a military veteran commits suicide each hour of every day. One organization hopes to change that by helping vets fight their way back to restoration.
Healing for Hidden Battle Scars
Veterans fighting overseas not only suffer physically but emotionally as well –- hidden battle scars that make life difficult back home.
That's where "Operation Restored Warrior" comes in. To find it, CBN News traveled to the heart of Colorado.
With its wide open spaces and large horse corral, the 4 Eagle Ranch resembles something out of the Old West. But take a closer look and you'll see much more. Organizers of Operation Restored Warrior say it's a location where healing takes place.
While the program welcomes all faiths, its core Christian ministry is the five-day program called the "Drop Zone."
"A 'drop zone' is a place in enemy territory where you go take that ground," Keith Poole, Army veteran and ORW facilitator, told CBN News. "And very often in kind of Christian environments we refer to things as retreats. 'I'm going to go to a retreat,' and that just didn't sit well with us as professional military men."
"It's like why are we retreating? How about if we go gain ground?" Poole continued. "So we specifically call coming to a Drop Zone, a counter-attack, and that appeals to warriors."
Rescue, Rebuild and Restore
That counter attack is three-fold: rescue, rebuild and restore.
"Warriors come to this place because they're looking for hope, and often the enemy has just beat them down," Poole explained. "But this is the place where they know there's some hope, and when they get here what they find out is that this is where healing is."
"And that hope and healing is here because Jesus is here," he continued.
The intensive program involves targeting areas of the heart that need healing. ORW leaders hold to the belief, "Psychology reveals; Jesus heals," and say it's been proven hundreds of times.
For participants like Navy veteran Paul Williams, the program can be a literal life-saver.
"July 2nd of this year I had written a note, and I was ready to go," he shared with CBN News. "And it just didn't happen. I went back to my truck to go get the gun, and it wasn't there."
"So I just started praising Jesus with my praise and worship music and said, 'You know what, I need to give this ORW, Operation Restored Warrior, a really good shot,'" Williams continued.
And that decision led to victory.
"I was able to open up to Paul, the founder of ORW, about all the trash that I've been carrying, and it felt so good to finally just let it out," Williams explained. "I can't thank this organization enough."
"I came here fightin' for my life, and I'm going to walk away a champion," he said, trying to fight back tears. "So I love them a lot, and I'm super thankful for it."
A Unique Gift
Former atheist Paul Lavelle started ORW nine years ago.
"Around 2008, I felt like Jesus just put in my heart that he had gifted me my whole life to rescue people, and I felt like I had a unique gift of healing as well," the Air Force veteran told CBN News. "But I had no idea it had to do with anything spiritual."
"And about 2008, I just felt this nudge that I had to do something," Lavelle continued. "ORW – our focus is to heal, and we bring Jesus into that healing process."
Army veteran Braxton Dunbar dealt with many things, including suicidal thoughts, before coming to ORW.
"I was definitely a broken, a broken man, had a lot of depression and anxiety, a lot of anger, a whole lot of anger and just felt lost, really just didn't... didn't know where my place was, didn't know how to find my place either," he shared with CBN News.
Dunbar accepted Christ during the Drop Zone and decided to get baptized.
"The same individual that prayed with me, Jordan, kind of came to me and said, 'You accepted him yesterday, and you verbally accepted him into your life. Would you want to show the action of it?'" Dunbar recalled. "And there was no question at all. I said, 'Absolutely. I'd love to.'"
Retired Air Force Chaplain Steve Frick also received healing through the program.
"ORW doesn't just help; they heal," he told CBN News. "And that's a little hard to hear when you first get here. But I'm telling you it's true."
In addition to powerful sessions building up the faith of the men, the Drop Zone also allows time for recreational activities like fly fishing. What can they learn from this? Lavelle says it nourishes the soul among other things.
"The reason we do the activities is because it's part of a spiritual longing for a man to have adventure in his life," he said. "It's one of the core desires of a man."
"And so as part of this restoration process, we want to remind them that there is adventure out there," Lavelle continued.
Before It's Too Late
Army veteran Chris Fields is the Drop Zone lead facilitator. He, too, once contemplated taking his life and also lost fellow service members to suicide.
Fields understands the urgency of going through this program before it's too late.
"Don't wait another moment to reach out and to ask for help," he said. "I used to think that I was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I ate barbed wire in the morning, and you can surmise what I did in the afternoon."
"But when I reached out for help I'm stronger than I ever was... and it just takes one moment, one moment to say, 'Okay, let me see what this is all about.' And then let Jesus take it from there," he continued.
This article was originally published in 2017. It's being reprinted in honor of America's troops on Memorial Day.