When Valentine’s Day fell on the weekend last year, Freedom Alliance treated selected combat veterans and their partners to a romantic two-night getaway at an enchanting bed-and-breakfast on Virginia’s Rappahannock River.
The historic Essex Inn in Tappahannock, Virginia (www.essexinnva.com), was pleased to entertain our special guests once again this year, and innkeepers Ric and Jeremy seemed to put their hearts and souls into the welcome.
Five couples came to stay, four from the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune community of North Carolina and one from Harrisonburg, Virginia:
Geoffrey served twice in Iraq and twice in Afghanistan; he is married to Heather, who is a Family Readiness Officer at Camp Lejeune.
Darrell is spending several weeks at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, and away from his wife Holly in North Carolina. The couple was delighted to be together for the weekend before Darrell had to return to his service on a selection board.
T. is a retired Marine Scout Sniper who served in the initial Iraqi invasion. He and Johanna are expecting their second child this summer.
Fae and Shawn have been connected with Freedom Alliance, since Shawn was recovering at the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Lejeune five years ago. Today he works with the North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen organization to support other injured veterans.
Craig, a Purple Heart recipient, has served three overseas deployments. He and bride-to-be Libby will move to Maine when he retires in a few months.
The couples arrived Friday night to a scrumptious Southern dinner, local wines, and bedroom suites made over with roses, chocolates, and boxes of luxury fragrance oils (Variations by Lisa Hoffman).
The next day began with a late breakfast. The weather was nippy, but our guests staunchly wrapped up for a walking tour of the town’s colonial sites.
As the day progressed, the couples enjoyed massages, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne.
A local blues musician, Bill Young, stopped in for the evening to perform love ballads, while the guests sang, danced, and sipped the Essex Inn’s very own “Valentini” cocktails. Then came a dinner of steak and shrimp, with caramel cake for dessert.
Breakfast on Sunday was followed by a photo shoot, so each couple would always remember their special Valentine’s Day getaway with Freedom Alliance.
We have learned how good it is to support the women who take care of the veterans, and Valentine’s Day is a fantastic excuse to show them our gratitude and strengthen these relationships.
One of the wives who participated opened up to us about what it’s like to be a military spouse/partner, comparing that role to that of the soldier’s.
“They often don’t stop to recharge and insist on taking the world on their shoulders,” she said.
When both partners go full speed without stopping, the need to break and rekindle their commitment to one another is crucial.
Still, the spouse’s battle is a different one and the struggle often goes undetected. She described the sacrifice as having to endure long separations from your loved one, followed by a bittersweet reunion, where the spouse is “left to pick up the pieces” of her soldier.
“They are often in the background,” she continued, “holding up the service member so he can keep going while also managing a household, job, and raising kids.”
Which is precisely why Freedom Alliance chooses to create events such as this, to renew this most vital relationship.
Holly wrote to us afterwards:
“Thank you for the opportunity to escape the chaos of reality, create new friendships, and remind us why we fell in love in the first place. You’ll never know the difference you make.”
And Heather said, “The time was invaluable to our marriage.”
Shawn wrote to us as well:
“This was the perfect Valentine’s Day retreat. I was able to relax and connect with my wife in a way I haven’t been able to for quite some time. It was a great way for us to heal together…”
And his wife Fae said, “I don’t know if you or the donors … realize how much it means to the veterans or the wives… I feel like a newlywed, and I’m loving it.”