EDEN – What began as a simple idea by a chaplain at the Ogden’s Rescue mission eight years ago has turned into an immense undertaking for Hill AFB families who attend the Air Expeditionary Force, or AEF, Family Resiliency Retreat held twice a year at Wolf Creek Resort in Eden.
The recent retreat held at the end of September was no small feat, but thanks to local volunteers from the community who put it all together, air force families with one or both parents about to deploy, or just returning from deployment, benefitted.
In 2006, Steve Roberts, Managing Partner of Wolf Creek before he passed away in 2009, heard about the chaplain’s idea involving a retreat for airmen and their families, and began putting it together with the help of Sue Munson, now Executive Director of the Wolf Creek Foundation, the non-profit organization set up specifically to host the retreats.
At first, the project seemed like a daunting task for Munson, but through the years, she has gained a greater appreciation for what military families go through with their deployments. “This has been such an eye-opening experience for me. Maybe you don’t have someone close to you involved in military, and it’s just something you see on TV, but when you see these families, you start to appreciate what they do go through,” Munson said.
Especially heartbreaking for Munson is seeing kids at the retreat who have two parents about to deploy at the same time. “These people in the course of their career are being asked to deploy eight to 10 times, and it’s not unusual to have both parents on active duty, which really puts families at risk,” Munson said. “For these families, sometimes it is a real treat to have both parents home at the same time.”
While the parents receive guidance and counsel to help their marriage and families, their kids are treated to special sessions in the context of play, where volunteers focus on their individual deployment issues. Munson says many of the children have no assurance their mom or dad will come home. “We really try to focus on the sacrifice the whole family makes for our freedom, not just the individual,” Munson said.
The weekend event includes the event location at the Wolf Creek Resort in Eden, meals, and activities for the families, all paid for by the Wolf Creek Foundation. Volunteers also donate their homes for the families.
“That was one of the best things we ever did recruiting volunteers, most who come from the Ogden Valley. For the volunteer, it puts a name and face to what is happening to families, and shows the level of support they have from this community, and that is a win-win,” Munson said.
“The week before the retreat, we always wonder why we do this on top of our full-time jobs, but then you get here and you see what happens to these families. Usually one of them doesn’t want to be there, the kids want to be somewhere else, and you can see that all the walls are up. Then something happens that I’ve never been able to put a word to. They come out as completely different people, relaxed, and having fun as a family, then we remember why we do it.”
As far as Munson is aware, Hill AFB is the only Air Force installation that hosts such an event. Munson has had several officers who have visited the event, and regret their installations haven’t offered anything as beneficial as Hill AFB’s program.
Lt. Col Josh Yanov, his wife Heather, and their six children attended the recent retreat since his return from deployment in Southwest Asia. Josh Yanov was impressed with the amount of community support at the event.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that you have people in the community that really put shoe leather to the intent on helping out with military members and provide a practical outreach that provides a longer term impact for military and their families,” Yanov said. “Spouses and their kids are being asked to shoulder quite a tremendous load, and things like this can help. We’ve never been up here before, and it’s gorgeous, and they provided us a place to stay that was ample for our large family. What an amazingly generous opportunity.”