Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Veteran, Family Thankful For Retreat’s Healing

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published November 22, 2012

The faith of Mike and Kim Reynolds was tested in the wake of Mike’s return from active duty as a Georgia National Guard medic in Balad, Iraq, in 2009. Since then the couple has experienced trials and triumphs as they dealt with Mike’s physical injuries and transition back to civilian life. This Thanksgiving, the Reynolds family is grateful for continued physical and spiritual healing, for Mike and the entire family.

With nearly 20 years of experience as a civilian and military medic, the 38-year-old had an important role during his Iraq tour of duty, helping to train other medics and organizing care. He first joined the U.S. Army in 1994. When he struck his head in an emergency vehicle while responding to a call, he didn’t realize how much the injury would change his life.

Mike suffered a traumatic brain injury in October 2009, which only got worse in the following months. Three months later, he was sent home. Initially facing delays with medical care and insurance, he was later also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and began to receive care for a growing list of medical conditions.

Even as the visible symptoms such as headaches and memory loss became more evident, Mike was also struggling internally. After two decades as a medic, his loss of purpose became overwhelming. Facing the fact that he could not serve in the same way he had for most of his life impacted him greatly.

A growing sense of isolation added to the difficulty of transitioning back to civilian life. The physical and emotional effects of his tour in Iraq added strain to the family and their social life so the couple began to seek other methods of help, including a new kind of retreat.

In June 2011, the Reynolds attended a retreat held at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, which focused on the spiritual healing of veterans.

Kim and Mike Reynolds of Adairsville sit together. Mike, a U.S. Army veteran, suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are expecting their second child in May 2013. Photo By Michael Alexander

Organized by Andy Farris, a Vietnam veteran and founder of, the retreat brought together three generations of veterans in an effort to address some of the common spiritual challenges with which former military members wrestle.

“Being around other veterans who were dealing with many of the same issues, even if it was from a different war, really helped Mike open up,” said Kim about the retreat.

There is always an internal struggle that may not be immediately visible, she said.

Farris said the focus of the retreat is the inner suffering, particularly the loss of faith veterans and their families may have.

“The key focus of the Spiritual Healing Retreat for Veterans is that it focuses on helping veterans suffering from PTSD recapture their faith,” wrote Farris by email. “The retreat focuses on helping veterans release their anger, grief, guilt, being given forgiveness, and learning to re-establish a one-to-one relationship with God through contemplative prayer.”

“While no one program can cure PTSD, we hope that the retreat helps a veteran, or a spouse, release their anger, grief and guilt, and find forgiveness, which can allow them to begin their own journey of healing,” Farris said.

Speaking for the family, Kim Reynolds said she and her husband had been spending so much time focused on the medical side that they had not paid much attention to the spiritual battles that were going on in the background.

“This was one of the first opportunities we had to take a step back from everything and spend some quiet time together,” Kim said. “We were able to reconnect as a couple and as a family.”

One of the greatest things about the retreat is that it teaches others to share the healing, Kim said. This was an important realization for her as she had been dealing with a series of challenges herself. Working through the burdens of arranging medical care, looking after their daughter, Katie Beth, and trying to handle all the stress began to take its toll on Kim.

“My challenge was trying to do it on my own. … It started physically and emotionally tearing me down,” she said.

Kim said the retreat played a significant role in opening up communication between her and Mike, but it also cleared a way for them to reconnect with God.

The Reynolds’ dependence on God and faith was tested and strengthened throughout their struggle. Learning to recognize God’s presence in their lives, even in the midst of great challenges, gave the Reynolds a peace that continues to grow and adapt to their situation.

“Turning that over to God and realizing that I have to see the blessing in all of this” was a big step, said Kim. “If you can find the happiness and the blessing and have that perspective in the middle of the storm, then everything is going to be at peace regardless of what is going on around you.”

Mike, who medically retired from the military in 2011, recently finished 16 weeks of treatment as a participant in the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center, Atlanta, a comprehensive rehabilitation program that focuses on assessment and treatment for service men and women who have sustained a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury and PTSD from the Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts. The program provides assistance, support and education to service members and their families during their recovery treatment.

“It has been tremendously helpful for Mike and it’s changed his outlook,” said Kim. Mike has reconnected with his friends and family in a different way, she said. He is beginning to open up and share his story. His speech has improved and he is improving overall medically. And perhaps most importantly he has reconnected with his faith.

Mike, Kim and Katie Beth, 6, also recently found out they are expecting a new addition to the Reynolds family, due in May. Kim called it an exclamation point on God’s blessings during this trying time.

As the Reynolds family continues the spiritual, emotional and physical healing together, they are also finding that Mike’s role as a medic can continue in a different way by sharing his story to aid others in their own healing.

“Any time we can tell what God has done for us . . . it is our responsibility to tell others,” Kim said.

When challenges arise, facing them together as a family helps all those involved, no matter what kind of struggle. The lessons that Kim and Mike learned throughout the last few years help them deal with anything they encounter now. That is why this Thanksgiving, the Reynolds family is taking time to be grateful for the gifts God has given them in the midst of what seemed like an impossible situation.

“I’m thankful for having Mike here, knowing how close we came to losing him,” said Kim. “Seeing him have joy again is such a blessing.”

“I don’t know how we cannot smile about the things we have been given, that we have experienced,” she said.


Retreat Information

    • Andy Farris, a Vietnam veteran, founded to help American veterans heal spiritually from the trauma of war.
    •  The Spiritual Healing Retreat for Veterans is designed to help veterans overcome guilt, honor lost friends, forgive, receive forgiveness, and celebrate the gift of life through a healing service. The next Spiritual Healing Retreat for Veterans will be held at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers July 15-18, 2013.