Couples retreat program credited with saving military marriages

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s an issue many military families share. Their loved one’s service has changed them, and now their family relationships are strained. Some are even pushed to the breaking point like Nilsa San Miguel. “He came back different. I really was kind of thinking, I don’t even know who you are, because you’re not the guy I married,” San Miguel said.

It’s a common conversation between military spouses. “I was short with my children, I was short with my wife,” medically retired Army 1SG Pedro San Miguel explains. “I didn’t want them around me. I felt ugly. I didn’t know how to deal with myself.”

Following three deployments, 1SG Miguel struggled with an invisible injury. “She found me passed out in the bathroom. I was having seizures. They found brain lesions on my brain.”

It took his wife, Nilsa, filling out endless paperwork and navigating red tape to finally get him help. “I’m not gonna lie,” Nilsa explained, “There’s just a lot of things that have to be done that a person with PTSD and TBI cannot do by themselves. If he didn’t have me, he would not be able to get the help that he’s getting.”

It’s not pride, her husband said, it’s the truth. And unfortunately, all military members don’t have that support. 1SG San Miguel’s diagnosis didn’t erase the years of hurt, but it did kickstart a new journey thanks in part to the non-profit Freedom Alliance.

“I know the president declared the war over. And in some senses, that is true. But if you’re a veteran who served and you are still fighting the war in your heart, and your soul, that is something that you’re going to struggle with for many years to come,” said the President of Freedom Alliance, Tom Kilgannon.

Freedom Alliances helps heroes heal by sending them on a free all-inclusive retreat some just for veterans others include spouses.

“For me, it was life-changing,” said Pedro.

Couples socialize and share, surrounded by beauty, while bonding, listening, and learning. “There were things that I shared there that I never told her,” Pedro recalled.

Overcoming the lingering stress of war – News 2 looks at what’s being done to help those who have served keep their voices heard in special reports all-day Veterans Day, in every newscast, and on wkrn.com.

The experience not only changed San Miguel’s marriage but it’s also inspired them to mentor others.

“I used to be embarrassed to bring it up,” says Pedro, “Now I’m not ashamed anymore. What I’ve gone through may help somebody. Don’t jeopardize your family, your health, the love of your wife. Don’t jeopardize that.

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