Saluting Arizona Veterans

Follow Us on


2020 Vet​​eran Healing Retreat

Camaraderie, Healing, Great Times and Lasting Memories!

2020 Operation Restoring Veterans Hope Retreat

This weekend (Sept. 18th-20th, 2020), I had the unique pleasure of attending the "Veterans Healing Retreat" which was held at St. Joseph's Youth Camp, Mormon Lake, Az.  

Thanks to Operation Restoring Veterans Hope, over 60 veterans who either struggle or have struggled to focus on their well-being were able to spend the weekend connecting with other veterans, having fun and "restoring" their hope in the future and in themselves.

From the point of checking in to the point that we departed, we (the veterans) were reminded that we do matter, that even during this crazy time that we are going through (with the Coronavirus) that people do care about us and we are not alone!

Some of the special things I would like to share about the weekend are:

Checking In

I have been to a number of events/expos and while its normal to be welcomed, being a first timer, I felt I was welcomed and love from my military brothers and sisters. I also had the opportunity to talk to other veterans, which allowed me to start to relax for what was going to be a weekend I would not forget

Enroute to Mormon Lake

One of the pleasures I was able to see was being escorted by some of the following military groups of bikers: Patriots Guard Riders and American Legion Riders. This is a ​spectacularsight to watch an abundant number of riders escorting you on the highway;

Arrival at Mormon Lake

As we arrived at Mormon Lake, we were escorted through the village by both the County Sheriff and the fire department. In addition, we were greeted by the people on both sides of the street with flags in hands waving and welcoming us. Personally, I was getting goosebumps seeing such support from everyone.

Arrival at St. Joseph's Youth Camp

If the support showed as we went through Mormon Lake Village was not enough, when we arrived at St. Josephs Youth Camp, we had a number flag bearers on both sides to welcome us, we were especially welcomed by a World War II Veteran, who saluted everyone as we passed.

St. Joseph's Youth Camp

I listed this, as it was such a beautiful place, where the meadows meet the pines, it was such a great place to be. Part of it was being away from everything, watching the sunset and then being greeted in the morning by the sunrise over the meadow. We were even visited by some local deer who came to remind us that we were in the wilderness and showed us that there is still beautiful creatures living in world.

UTV Trail Convoy

One of the activities they scheduled was the UTV rides, in the beginning, there was about seven UTVs lined up and was scheduled for all day rides, next thing you know, there was roughly over 30 UTV's lining up, just to give us vets a ride that many of us won't forget. A special thank you to Jim, Leslie and Remy (their dog) as well as all of the people that brought their UTVs up there, another display of the love and support for us veterans.

The Cooks

While every retreat has food prepared, our cooks took care of us. I am reminded of a Spanish Proverb: "An empty stomach will not listen to anything", and our cooks went out of their way to make sure our stomachs were not empty


If we ever forgot the ​camaraderie that we shared with each other, this weekend gave us a chance to relive it. For some of us, we normally don't get the opportunities to interact with other veterans in a carefree atmosphere or in an entertainment setting. I had the pleasure of meeting some new friends and enjoy a day with them, doing something that had long been lost: Having FUN!

The Bonfires

What could be better for a bunch of veterans than being around a bonfire, playing guitar and singing (we had some special visitors from California who did the job for us), sharing stories and cooking smores

The retreat, while lots of fun, provided an un-official place for veterans to communicate and as Operation Restoring Veterans Hope's founder, Ray Perez stated "share their story".  Today, so many veterans are mentally and physically struggling in society, especially if they are single, a lot with no hope of tomorrow, thinking and believing they are alone in their struggles.  This weekend, myself and other veterans, got to share my/our story with people that are non-judgmental, people that have shared our experiences, and in doing so, reminded each one of us that we are not alone.  Every day, approximately 22 veterans commit suicide, some because they believe they are alone, that no one can understand what they have done or that no one cares if they are alive.  

  This weekend's retreat, in my humble opinion, for myself and roughly 60 other veterans, DEMOSTRATES that we are NOT ALONE, and we have people (both civilians and other veterans) that showed us, they care about each one of us.   It was an event that I believe if more struggling veterans were able to experience, it would help them live in the day and restore their hope for their future, hopefully lowering the 22 suicides per day.  .