Barry Petersen, CBS News, Granby, Colorado.
CBS Evening News, 6:30 PM
July 5, 2012
ANTHONY MASON: Whenever an American service member is deployed, an entire family sacrifices. Tonight, Barry Petersen takes us to a place where husbands, wives, and children once separated by war can learn to be a family again.
BARRY PETERSEN: It looks like a carefree hike through the Colorado wilderness, but it is really about military families struggling with years of deployments. And they are here because of this woman, Heather Ehle.
HEATHER EHLE: You remove the distractions from the cell phone, the TV.
PETERSEN: By being out here.
EHLE: By being out here. And it helps bring walls down.
PETERSEN: Breaking walls down is exactly why Ehle started Project Sanctuary, a weeklong retreat for troops and their families. Ehle got her first taste of how a family pays a price for military service when she was a volunteer nurse during the first war in Iraq.
EHLE: The stress of deployments, 10 and a half years of war have really taken a toll. A lot of these children have grown up with one parent, having birthdays by Skype. It's very difficult for them to reunite and to connect.
PETERSEN: Staci and Ty Taylor, with daughters Kameron and Kenidi, came here from Oklahoma, where he is still being deployed as part of National Guard air crew.
For Staci, there is a comfort just from being with other military families facing the same challenges.
STACI TAYLOR: We can say anything and somebody in the room is going know exactly what we've gone through.
PETERSEN: Things for the Taylors were made tougher since their five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder.
TY TAYLOR: Our youngest, Kameron, has had two brain surgeries in the last year. So she is – had a lot of stress in her life for a young girl. This has given her a chance to play and just be a kid for a change.
PETERSEN: Besides all of the outdoor activity, there is plenty of practical learning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was deployed, everything that was extra that he made I did just put on credit cards –
PETERSEN: Like classes on family finances and marriage.
One measure of success, a waiting list of more than 1,000 families. Ehle personally raises $30,000 to pay for the week through fundraisers and private donations, which means the families can come here for free.
PETERSEN: What are you looking for that says to you that this is working?
EHLE: I watch, number one, their facial expressions. You start seeing some smiles. You start seeing some hand-holding. You watch the spouses offer support to one another. Then you watch the kids and then go with each other. It becomes a one big community, one big family.
PETERSEN: What war has taken from these families, time in the Colorado Rockies can begin giving back.