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Captain Joseph House: A Retreat for Families of the Fallen

"The families who have lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan form a tiny, at times, isolated fraternity in this nation.  They, too, are among the war's wounded, and their toughest struggles often unfold long after the honor guard escorts, funerals and memorial services conclude."

The above quote is from an article in the Seattle Times from Memorial Day, May 27, 2013.  It echoes a theme that I have written about on a couple of occasions in the past, the fact that those who have fought, suffered and died in uniform in the post 9/11 wars are a tiny minority, less than a half of a percent of the total population of this nation.   Their families are a part of that all too often forgotten minority.  Those who have experienced the terrible cost of freedom through the loss of a loved one in the deserts of Iraq, or the mountains and desert terrains of Afghanistan go through the experience alone, maybe more alone than the warriors themselves.  

Many of these families have ties to the military only because their loved one was a member of one of the services.   When that military member has been buried and all of the honors have been paid to the fallen by the particular service, these families go back to their homes in communities where most of the people have no connection to the military and rarely, if ever, give much of a thought to the wars or those fighting them.  They are untouched and, therefore, generally unconcerned about the wars or those who are paying the costs with their very lives.   

One mother, Betsy Reed Schultz, knows this fact and this pain too well.  She lost her only child, Army Green Beret,  Capt. Joseph Schultz in May of 2011 in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb exploded next to his humvee.   Two of his men died in that explosion as well.    She was the proprietor of a Bed&Breakfast in Port Angeles, Washington at the time.  She had raised her son as a single mom in Sacramento, California.  She had moved to Port Angeles in 2000 to start and run the Bed&Breakfast.  She found out about her son's death on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2011, when she was called back to the B&B by a friend and was met there by a captain and a chaplain from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  

Over the last two years she has been able to get the support of many in the Port Angeles community to help her turn the B&B into what she calls Captain Joseph House.  The intent is to make the former B&B into a healing place for the families of the fallen, a place where families like themselves, who have lost a loved one in war, can come together, spend time with each other, care for one another and, maybe, find some peace and renewed comfort in each other's company.  

There were choral concerts and auctions held as fundraisers, many putting in long hours to help organize the new nonprofit or to solicit supplies.  Some who own sail or power boats in the area have offered to donate sailing trips or motoring tours, free of charge.  Some of the support in the community has come from Vietnam veterans who remember only too well what it was like, who also grieved for the families of their fallen comrades, but had no system, indeed, no support to do anything about it.

This project is for the families of the fallen.  Though much support has been given by individuals, the project is still far short of meeting the financial needs of staffing and operating the retreat center.   It seems that major donors are not willing to put up the front money to a project that has yet to deliver any of its services.  But Betsy Reed Schultz is convinced that the money will come.   

I hope that this mother's efforts to relieve some of the suffering of the families of the fallen will come to fruition.  These families too often have to suffer and endure their terrible losses completely in isolation.  This would be a wonderful place for them to find a community of understanding, a community that shares the intimate reality of that kind of loss.  Just a few days together in the warm confines of a homey place, in a lovely seaside community, with people who know what it is like, can go a long way toward healing the terrible wounds that they share.  Just knowing that you are not alone is often gift enough.

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