Military families find solace through Memorial Day retreat

KOTA Territory News – This Memorial Day weekend, military families across the nation and even Canada come together in the black hills to find the healing they so desperately need.

Music from the drums help Arturo Cambron find healing.  He and his wife Rossana suffer a daily battle while their son fights a war in Iraq.

“All of the pain I feel as a mother whose son has just deployed for the third time and taking that deep breathe that you never let out until they come home,” said Rossana.

This weekend they learn how to pray, spiritually connect and most importantly how to exhale, even when they know they have more challenges ahead.

“It’s one type of burden but when he gets home it’s another type of burden because we don’t know the affects it will have on him,” said Rossana.

Something April Somdahl knows all too well.  After failing a psychological test Somdahl says her brother was sent back to Iraq for his second tour.

“He returned in August, he committed suicide on February 20th of 2007,” said Somdahl.

“The way I can describe it, my son returned home alive but dead inside,” said He Sapa coordinator, Georgia Stillwell.

The He Sapa or Heart of the People retreat helps military families find solace through Lakota ceremonies.  For four days, 20 people from all over the country and Canada learn how to release their trauma and sorrow.

“I wanted to help them to grieve and feel like their prayers are being answered somehow,” said Michael Bissonette, one of the event coordinators.

And family members say that’s just what this music and these rituals are doing for them.

The four day retreat ends Sunday with a closing talking circle and sunrise ceremony.  The Oglala Sioux Tribe will also host a Memorial Day ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery.