Warriors to Lourdes
Jonathan A., Marine Corps, Warrior Pilgrim 2017

Caroline and I were so incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity to participate in the 2017 WTL pilgrimage. I cannot say enough about what it did for us, both as individuals and as a couple, dealing with the constant challenges of active-duty service in the Marine Corps. It is very easy to lose faith or suffer both physically and spiritually, but the healing we have enjoyed, both during our trip to Lourdes and since returning, is something that I wish we could share with all of our fellow service members, particularly those in suffering.

I was very busy preparing for the upcoming pilgrimage, which was shaping up to be such a tremendous experience. And then my sister called me. She was very concerned.

I’m one of four brothers and my sister makes five. We have experienced loss. Two of our brothers have died of Huntington’s disease. Once the disease takes over, there is simply little to be done. For both, we endured a very long goodbye. Now our third brother was losing his fight. We both knew the day was coming, but she was much distressed because of my pending departure to France. Could I stay home, just in case? She did not want to face this loss alone. I told her that would never happen and that I had to go on this pilgrimage. It was simply something I needed to do. I promised her nothing would happen until I returned home. How does one keep such a promise?

When we call on Our Blessed Mother for help, especially at such a holy site as Lourdes, we pray for healing, comfort, peace, a miracle. I doubt many of the faithful ask for her intercession to delay the calling of a loved one, someone we know will leave us soon. We pray for life, not to delay death. Still, this was my request, my miracle. Please do not take my brother until I get back home. He is leaving us, but please not just yet. That’s all I ask.

My brother died and passed on to eternal life five days after I returned. My sister and I had a wonderful funeral for him in San Francisco.

No one will ever convince me Our Blessed Mother is not listening. She listens and takes care of us, especially when we need her the most.

Claudia J., Marine Corps Spouse and Nurse, 2016 Pilgrimage

My husband and I experienced an incredible spiritual renewal in Lourdes, a deeper connection with our military family (both wounded and caregivers) and we got to honor our Lady, who has always cared for our family. My husband and I have done previous pilgrimages, which were great, but this one in particular was very special because Travis got to share it with his “brothers in arms” and I can’t thank you enough for it. Travis also mentioned that he would love to help more since his experience in Lourdes. I have to tell you that this pilgrimage you all work so hard to organize works miracles in people’s lives, especially for our wounded warriors and I'm so thankful for all your dedication. We are applying to come again!

Larry J., 2016 Lourdes Pilgrim

Me and my brothers Tom and Tim met your group in Lourdes on May 18th 2016. We attended your opening mass and were later asked to walk with your group through the Gates of Mercy to begin the pilgrimage. It was the highlight of our trip. My Brother Tim was suffering from an inoperable cancer and had wanted to make the trip to Lourdes in hopes of a miracle, but more so, to strengthen his relationship with God so that when his time came he would be ready.

Tim lost his battle to cancer on June 18th, but he never lost hope. Tim spoke of our trip to Lourdes every day until the day he passed. He said he could not have asked for a better last wish and how meeting with the K of C meant so much to him. He was taken aback by how you invited us into your lives without knowing us. Members of your staff sat with the three of us for over an hour and we talked of the great things you are all doing for our veterans. They listened as Tim told his story and why we were there. They were genuinely interested and were in awe of the love three brothers showed for each other to make this journey happen.

Tim and I are both Army Veterans and Tom is a corporal with the Arlington Virginia Police Dept, so meeting your group meant so much more than just making new friends. It touched our hearts.

My brother Tom and I also want to thank you all for adding a special memory to our time with Tim that we will never forget. We did not receive the miracle we had hoped for, but what we did get was the love of three brothers that will endure all time and distance and you and your team helped with that. So from Tom and I we thank you for all you do.

To all of those who organized and supported the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, THANK YOU for allowing me to accompany the warriors, companions, chaplains, Knights of Columbus, and others as a volunteer this year. I was so honored and blessed to join you. What a gift! I felt as if the experience tapped so much of my prior experience, especially many of my adult faith formation experiences.

I was so impressed with these wounded men and women and their families. I was so very impressed with the support that you have provided them to enable them to make the trip and experience a true retreat… You are doing remarkable and important work.

A very special moment during the 2016 WTL pilgrimage was a surprise retirement ceremony given to Maj. Drew Webb on the front steps of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. Webb spent eight years in the Australian Army and 24 years in the United States Army receiving two Bronze Stars, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals and a long list of other commendation medals and service ribbons. He served in combat as both an enlisted and commissioned officer, earning the Combat Infantry Badge and the Combat Medical Badge through several deployments, to include Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He is currently employed as a PA in Family Practice, has been married for over 27 years. He and his wife have 5 daughters.

“It was an extremely proud moment to have my wife stand beside me and share the final moment of my military career,” said Maj. Webb. “I felt extremely humbled as I glanced over the formation of well decorated service members in front of me, standing tall and proud. I gathered my thoughts and spoke from the heart as I tried to inspire these amazing Wounded Warriors in front of me. The retirement ceremony and the spiritual backdrop was an important part of my spiritual healing of my moral injury incurred during war.”

There is no way to adequately describe what it is like to be a part of the International Military Pilgrimage. It is so moving, so inspiring, so incredible to be here with 45 other Nations. And to be in Lourdes, praying for peace!

I have thought as I made my way through this time in Lourdes what a wonderful blessing it is to seek healing from the wounds of war. Surely the Knights of Columbus understand how much their leadership has impacted the lives of so many warriors who carry with them so many injuries – physical, emotional, spiritual – the Knights powerfully demonstrate their commitment to our wounded warriors by extending to them this most sacred opportunity.

I’d like to thank the Knights for selecting my wife (LCDR Krista T. Penn) and I to participate in the 57th International PMI last May. It was a life changing experience. Since returning from Lourdes, Krista has gone to the VA Center to ask for help for the first time. This was due to the wonderful experience she had reconnecting with comrades she had met in Afghanistan. We both also experienced a spiritual reawakening. God’s message to us was loud and clear: Without Him, we are all lost. The experience in Lourdes is a highlight of my life with Krista. I thank the Knights profoundly for that gift… more than words can express.

On September 29, 2003, I was struck by an I.E.D. in the face and chest while serving in Iraq. I was looking for something to heal my mind, body, and soul from the damage that occurred. I had no idea there was a pilgrimage to Lourdes at that point or even what it was. I cannot thank the Knights of Columbus enough for the trip of a lifetime. The trip was life-changing for all of us combat-wounded veterans, some of us affected with deep scars from constant fighting. From what I saw and felt, the Pilgrimage touched all of us in a way that changed us for the better. It was like our Mother that we haven't seen for a while was helping us learn how to live again, or at least to know we are human.

Derrick M., Warrior Pilgrim

On behalf of the Fort Bragg warriors, we thank you for a wonderful lifetime experience to travel to Lourdes, France, for the 56th international Military Pilgrimage (PMI) Warriors to Lourdes. I was excited as were so many other soldiers from Fort Bragg to be selected to go on the pilgrimage, but more excited to tell others of our experience upon our return. This trip will be cherished for the rest of our lives.

Personally, I was completely humbled by the Warriors we accompanied, their experiences in combat and selfless devotion to duty. There was amazing camaraderie amongst all the branches and ranks of the armed services. Our days were full experiencing all that Lourdes has to offer, including the most amazing vocal celebration of the Rosary and a candlelight procession of thousands of people. It filled me with peace and hope for myself and our troubled world! The opportunity to pray for others and help others was the perfect venue to experience the washing over of God's perfect love. It was an opportunity to experience Philippians 2:1-4 in my life.

The Knights of Columbus were very helpful in all kinds of ways: first, by contacting us to see if we needed anything; secondly, they made sure we got to our destinations on time. They picked us up from our front porch to take us to the airport from San Antonio to Houston and back. They covered all expenses to make sure I'd go and also allowed me to take my caregiver. I'm so pleased with the way the Knights of Columbus treated us!

From the “Stations of the Cross,” to the prayerful opportunities to seek healing, to exploring the ministry at the baths, to the Memorial Ceremonial Services, to interacting with band members from the Nations — I was so honored to worship Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this manner with so many people from over 30 countries!

This international pilgrimage left such an impression on me of relational reconciliation and deepening of bonds between Christians from so many nations that I immediately marked next year’s Lourdes Pilgrimage on my calendar with the prayerful hope of leading my battalion there in May 2015. The Lord is the Living Water of Life at Lourdes.