When Katie Calvillo of Florida set off for an Operation Healing Forces Spouse’s Retreat in Georgetown, SC, she was apprehensive. While she’d participated in a couples retreat with her husband Al, an Army major, she would go on her own this time. She wondered if it would be an awkward week of polite exchanges with strangers.
“Instead, we instantly connected. Through each one of the SOF spouses, I learned about the challenges and obstacles they faced being married to a SOF warrior,” Katie says.
“These women were nothing short of amazing and the backbone of this community. We started the week as strangers with little in common aside from our husbands’ professions, and we left as sisters.”
Away from the daily stresses of work and caretaking, Katie enjoyed sightseeing and wellness activities, like journaling, meditation, and yoga.
“We are used to taking care of everybody else,” Katie says, who works as a government contractor while also raising four children, ages 11 to 18. “But, for a week somebody took care of me. It gave me a chance to press pause on real life and just focus on what makes me happy.”
During the retreat, she learned she could apply for tuition assistance through OHF’s Special Operations Additional Resources (SOAR) program and is now five classes away from graduating with a master’s degree in Organizational and Strategic Leadership. And, a horseback riding excursion on the beach reignited a long-forgotten childhood passion.
“You literally have to turn off everything else in your life when you’re riding because everything is about connection to the animal, not only to better your skills, but for your own safety. It was life-giving to me,” Katie says. “When I came home from the retreat, I started taking weekly riding lessons. Seven months later, I’m still pursuing this passion. I hope one day to pay it forward and have an equine therapy program for other military spouses.”