When Paul O’Farrell, 44, went to the emergency room in February for symptoms related to gastrointestinal bleeding, he never imagined he would walk out with a cancer diagnosis. An active-duty Army helicopter pilot, who ran and worked out daily and pulled regular 12-hour shifts with his soldiers, Paul looked like the picture of health—even his bloodwork came back normal, but a CT scan revealed an entirely different story. “I was littered with tumors on my lungs, my liver, my peritoneal wall [the tissue lining the abdomen], and my colon. I’d probably had colon cancer for a while, and it spread everywhere,” he says.
Undergoing an aggressive treatment plan for stage IV colon cancer, Paul has had four surgeries and is enduring 12 rounds of chemotherapy. The diagnosis has also meant that he and his wife have had to spend multiple days and sometimes weeks in and out of the hospital in Nashville, TN, which is 65 miles from their home in Clarksville. While raising three children, ages 12, 15, and 19, and with food and gas prices soaring, the couple was growing increasingly stressed. Paul reached out to Operation Healing Forces’ Immediate Needs Program for assistance. “You know when you’re in the open ocean just treading water and you just need to get another breath and calm down?” Paul asks. “That’s what the Immediate Needs help brought me. It gave me a chance to release some tension and anxiety and take a deep breath.”
Operation Healing Forces is a non-profit organization that serves the Special Operation Forces (SOF) Community. We recognize the decades of war-fighting and sacrifices SOF members made during the Global War on Terror and the toll it has taken on these service members and their families as well as the ongoing challenges and hardships they face as they continue to deploy all over the world. It is our mission to aid active-duty and recent-veteran wounded, ill, injured, and fallen SOF and their families by aiding in the process of mentally, physically, and emotionally healing these individuals so they may return to the fight or successfully transition into civilian life.
Operation Healing Forces serves a very elite and very worthy segment of our population. Our organization is dedicated to supporting the Special Operation Forces of the United States Department of Defense’s United States Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) located at MacDill, AFB. Typically referred to as “quiet professionals”, Special Operation Forces include Rangers, Green Berets, Night Stalkers, Delta Force, Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Tactics, and Marine Raiders. Unfortunately, SOF members claim the highest divorce, cancer, and suicide rates of all the military. OHF is dedicated to healing the visible and invisible wounds and hardships this community faces. OHF is committed to focusing on the SOF communities’ well- being by restoring families and providing the resources and tools necessary for SOF members to reclaim happy, productive, and fulfilling lives.
OHF aids SOF and SOF family members in healing their wounds by “Creating Bonds that Cure”. OHF reconnects families through our therapeutic couple retreats that strengthen and restore relationships that have experienced long periods of separation and multiple war-time deployments. We also provide respite and promote the importance of self-care through our Caregiver and Gold Star Family Retreats. Lastly, OHF provides necessary and life-changing resources to provide for the immediate physical, financial, and emotional need SOF members and SOF family members may require.