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NONPROFIT WISH LIST: Operation Exfil

The Cullison family walked the trails at Candlelight Ranch while reconnecting during a family outing. The event was planned thanks to a partnership between the ranch and Operation Exfil. Courtesy photo

Sandra Galyon watched as her husband, Bobby, a U.S. Army veteran, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even with support from veterans programs, the family, which includes son Asher, needed help fording the issues caused by the disorder.

“We forget there’s families involved,” said Sandra, referring to veterans struggling to return to civilian life after their service is over.

The problems that arise, whether PTSD-related or from other mental and emotional issues, affect the family as well as the veteran.

That’s how Sandra and Bobby came to start Operation Exfil, a nonprofit founded through a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Packsaddle Fellowship Church of Kingsland, which ensures donations are tax-deductible.

The organization works to address the complete family, not just the veteran.

Sandra Galyon discovered that few resources were available to families of veterans when her husband left the Army after serving from 1991-2007.

Sandra and son Asher would take trips without Bobby so they could give him a break. When Asher was 5, he asked his mother if other people’s fathers needed time to themselves.

“My son figured out there are other kids in his class who have daddies with post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “PTSD is overbearing.”

If Bobby joined the family on an outing, he would drive his own vehicle in case he needed to leave early. Sandra called this “the new normal.” She started looking for places to visit that had activities for both veterans and their families.

“They all understand each other’s ends and outs,” she said about veterans programs, particularly those that are peer-led or -supported. “They can really connect — one of the really therapeutic things that happens. We want to be able to do that for the family.”

Bobby suggested Operation Exfil for their organization’s name. Exfil refers to the military’s exfiltration, the process of removing personnel, when imperative, from a hostile environment and into a secure area.

“I had no idea what (exfiltration) was, and, when we looked it up, it was perfect,” she said.

Operation Exfil helps veterans and their families find solace through rest and recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, hunting, family games, outdoor activities, cookouts, swimming, spa services, and ranching and farming activities.

“Our goal has been to focus on the fun part,” Sandra said. “It’s a big task to take on demons. It takes a lot of work, and it’s a tough road. It’s pretty intimate for someone willing to come to a weekend and show them you can communicate and feel better.”

She hopes to eventually build a facility on approximately 100 acres. She envisions a lodge big enough to accommodate two families at one time. It would have a full-service kitchen and a living room as common areas. Families would stay in five bedrooms.

“It’s an actual retreat,” she said. “They’d spend the weekend. It would be like a bed-and-breakfast experience.”

To help make this dream a reality, Operation Exfil is in need of monetary donations and partnerships.

Candlelight Ranch is one such partner. The facility offers outdoors activities and bonding opportunities for at-risk and special-needs youths as well as group and corporate retreats.

Operation Exfil and Candlelight Ranch recently hosted an outdoors outing that drew several families.

Galleries of Pecan Creek in Marble Falls hosted a painting session with Operation Exfil so spouses of the veterans could have an evening out.

A private benefit concert, originally scheduled in late October but canceled because of flooding, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9. The lineup includes John Arthur Martinez, Pauline Reese, Luiz Coutinho de Souza, and Chris Reeves. Search for “Operation Exfil” on Facebook for more information.

Monetary donations may be sent to Operation Exfil at P.O. Box 1934, Kingsland, TX 78639. Go to operationexfil.com or call (317) 863-9345 for more information about the organization.

“We owe a lot to our veterans,” Sandra Gaylon said. “They gave so much, even being away from families. If we can give even one family something they’d never be able to have … that would be huge.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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There are 1 comments.

Gil Jones —
I hope that Operation Exfil will establish a web presence with an online donation opportunity.
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