Like many Americans, the events of September 11, 2001 sparked a fire in Levi Stuart. While there was great sadness and horror at the events that unfolded on that perfect spring morning in New York, Philadelphia and Washington – there was also unprecedented levels of national pride, patriotism and looking out for your neighbor.
Levi – a country boy growing up on a ranch in Montana, who had the values of hard work and honesty drilled into him from an early age – was motivated to become a Marine.
“I instantly knew (after September 11) that I was going to be a Marine,” explained Levi.
“I knew I was going to put college on hold, hang up my bull riding spurs and put the saddle back in the tack room.
“All I wanted to do was put my boot into the backside of the insurgency.”
Enlisting as a young man, Levi was quickly deployed. He was also in a relationship with Danielle who was proving to be his rock after the things he saw were having an effect on him.
After his second deployment – at the tender age of just 20 – they married.
“She was my saving grace and brought me back from some of the struggles I was facing,” said Levi. “She was especially there for me for me during my additional three deployments I went on after we married. Danielle taught me how to be human again and put to rest some of the demons I had. My little Montana girl that would go anywhere with me.
“A lot of days I am dumbfounded that she puts up with it all.”
Levi freely admits that many times, Danielle took a backseat to his career with his focus on an end game from his career that would ultimately place her first.
This took a toll on their marriage.
Danielle then discovered the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Revitalization Retreat programs. Levi was deployed when Danielle nominated them for a program, however it didn’t resonate with Levi at the time.
“I remember I was on deployment when she applied but I was pretty consumed with the responsibilities I had going on, it seemed hard to think about taking anything else on.”
As Levi decompressed following his return, they received a call from the CKFF team, who alerted them they were successful in being awarded a Revitalization Retreat.
The emotion bubbled to the surface.
“We were beside ourselves,” Levi recalled. “That final phone call was an extremely emotional day. It seemed like I wasn’t going to hold it together.
“It gave Danielle and I something to finally look forward to and it had been a really long time since we had that.
“It was the perfect chance to finally put my wife first.”
As with all Revitalization Retreat couples, they are partnered with a CKFF-appointed coach to talk about their relationship in an effort to understand where they were on the journey. In this case, Levi and Danielle met with Corie Weathers – herself a Military Spouse and family advocate.
“There were things that I figured out about my wife in just a few short sessions that I didn’t know after 11 years of marriage,” Levi admitted. “It opened the doors to not only understanding Danielle, but myself also.
“We’ve learned how to lean on each other in the proper ways – we’ve been applying the coaching methods in our daily lives ever since.”
Following the coaching sessions – Levi and Danielle took their Revitalization Retreat, which proved to be a lightbulb moment for the couple – and has changed the course of their marriage.
“Having the marriage coaching prior to the retreat is a must. It put us in a great place both mentally and spiritually and allowed us to go into the retreat fully prepared to focus on our marriage.
“The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation thought of everything and were available around the clock to handle any possible situation. I never knew a trip could have so few stresses. It really did allow us to put all our energy into each other.
“I was able to connect with my wife on an intimate level that we hadn’t been able to do in over 11 years. We reconnected and restored the passion that brought us together in the beginning.
“It got us out of that comfort zone and act like some carefree kids.”
Revitalization Retreats are the Signature program of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and nominations for a military, veteran or first responder couple is accepted via www.ckffdn.org/nominate. Corporate partners that wish to contribute to Revitalization Retreats and CKFF programs are also encouraged to reach out to the Foundation.
As with Levi and Danielle, something so small, such as a short break and an opportunity to think about and understand one another has made such a difference in their lives.
“Following our sessions with Corie and our Retreat, we are now merging our strengths so that together, we can be the strongest team possible.
“I feel renewed in ways I never thought possible and have a new outlook on the way I need to be in order for our relationship to grow stronger.
“You have given my wife and I a priceless gift.”
The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation was launched on November 11, 2014 by Taya Kyle in honor of her husband, the American Sniper Chris Kyle. It’s aim is to change the world for this generation and the next by serving the marriages of those who serve us.