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Veterans' spiritual healing offered at 4Given Ranch

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Sept. 6, 2013 at 4:06 a.m.

(PHOTO ABOVE) After returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury, Nick Lowry, hospital corpsmen second class in the U.S. Navy, center, turned to Christianity to help him heal. After the comfort his faith gave him, and with the help of his board members, he decided to start a Christian Warriors Retreat at the 4Given Ranch in Yorktown. The first retreat will be in October, and Lowry hopes to eventually expand the retreat to host year-round events. Christian Warriors Retreat board members are, from left, Chief Ron Maywald, Lt. Gary R. Garrison, Staff Sgt. Caleb Shaw and Col. Mike Petrash.

Nick Lowry woke in the middle of the night, wiping sweat beads from his brow.

Half asleep, startled by another nightmare, he sat up in bed and attempted to make sense of his surroundings.

Lowry's wife, Nicole, reaches for him, gently.

She's used to the night terrors, but it never gets easier to watch her man, the father of her children, suffer through years of war-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the dark, she consoles him, lulling him back to sleep.

"I have my personal loving words for him. I know how to talk him down," said Nicole, 28, her husband's legal caregiver.

As a disabled Marine and wounded warrior, Lowry, of Victoria, suffers from night terrors every few days.

Some weeks are better than others.

But if it hadn't been for his decision to follow Christ in 2008, Lowry said he'd likely be dead.

"Suicide was definitely something on the menu at points in my life," said the 30-year-old. "I'd like to say I've become a man of Christ. It feels like night and day."

Five years later, Lowry hopes he can help other veterans find the peace and healing he did.

Deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005, Nick was one of the original line corpsmen with India Company 35 to assist with the clearing of Fallujah.

It's difficult for him to talk about the death and destruction of war, but he said he wouldn't take back his service.

He would proudly serve his country again - that is, if he were physically and emotionally able to do so.

"One of my worst days was when we were clearing a house in Fallujah and an (improvised explosive devise) knocked us unconscious. I lost my lieutenant and seven other guys were injured. One guy had his nose blown off his face. I did what I could to save him," he said, remembering. "The nightmares often replay some of the lives that we took over there or incidents where we lost our brothers."

Lowry, a Purple Heart recipient, also suffered at least four traumatic brain injuries while serving in Iraq.

But he said the PTSD is one of the more difficult injuries to overcome.

Symptoms of the illness became apparent when he returned from his second and final tour in Iraq.

"I was attempting to transition into civilian life in the medical field, and as I was transitioning, I started getting the nightmares. I could smell the gun powder and feel the heat of things around me; it was that real," he said. "Sometimes, you wake up in tears. Sometimes, you wake up in sweats; and sometimes, you wake up and wonder where your rifle is."

Even though the night terrors haven't lessened, Lowry's personal faith journey and relationship with Christ has done much to heal his spirit.

The Lowrys regularly attend Northside Baptist Church, and every day, he said he's on the path to recovery.

"I'm not healed, but I'm healing," he said. "I couldn't have done that without Christ."

Through his following of the Gospel, Lowry said he's learned how to become a better husband, father and friend.

And because he's seen how much faith has changed his heart, he now wants to serve other veterans who may be suffering with similar post-military physical and spiritual battles.

"I've felt a calling to start a ministry for veterans for years, but I was unclear of what I wanted to do or how I could do it," said Lowry, who one day desires to become an ordained minister. "It wasn't until I started working with Warrior's Weekend that I realized what God wanted me to do for them."

After much prayer and counsel, Lowry's Christian calling has finally come to fruition.

In October, he's organizing the first Christian Warriors Retreat for combat veterans at the 4Given Ranch in Yorktown.

For 72 hours, veterans participating in the spiritual retreat will be spiritually fed with 12 guest speakers, worship music, small groups and godly discussions. Room and board is included, and all branches of military are welcome to attend.

"This is specifically designed for veterans. Sometimes they can feel like it's hard to connect with other Christian groups because it's not always easy for others to understand where you're coming from, especially since your life experiences are so much more intense than a regular person," he said. "This retreat will allow veterans an opportunity to be among brothers and know they're not alone."

Retired U.S. Army Col. Michael Petrash said he's honored to participate in Lowry's retreat. The men have partnered in many capacities through the years on various veterans-related events, like the Warriors Weekend fishing weekend in Port O'Connor and Petrash's Field of Honor.

Petrash said he's passionate about Lowry's new ministry and said he understands why it will be beneficial for veterans.

"One thing I've learned from interviewing hundreds of soldiers with PTSD and (traumatic brain injuries) is that they're healing, they're not healed. And secondly, no matter what we do with them physically and emotionally, I really feel like they're not totally going to heal until they're healed spiritually," Petrash said.

Lowry's desire is to continue growing the ministry in the future so that it's eventually operating year-round. He aims to purchase a plot of land to build a permanent 4Given Ranch for veterans to frequent with their families.

"I feel extremely blessed that we've been given the opportunity to help some of these guys. I've got a real strong team around me ready to do this retreat," he said. "Of course, there are some nerves when you start something like this, but anytime you give something to God and let him do what he's going to do, you will not be disappointed."



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