DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Imagine leaving some of the biggest, busiest cities in America, and finding quiet right in the heart of Lakes Country.
On the Otter Tail-Becker County line sits Holbrook Farms Retreat, a bed-and-breakfast style events center that hosts Survivors of Heroes retreats for military wives who recently lost a spouse, and veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder once home.
Women from across the country who all share one thing — loss — have come to northwestern Minnesota for a wellness retreat. On Friday, May 17, they participated in yoga, planting, painting and shared stories of loss, recovery and healing on the shores of a small lake that has created priceless moments for them all.
Nature, along with peer-to-peer counseling, can be healing, retreat attendees say.
It all started five years ago, and now there are retreats all summer.
Fargo-native Sarah Merwin's life was rocked eight years ago, when her husband, Eric Ziegler, of West Fargo, died when his F-16 fighter jet crashed during a training exercise in Nevada. Now, Merwin helps facilitate the retreats, bringing women together to heal.
"I came away from the first weekend, thinking this is a need I did not know I had," Merwin said, explaining that she leaves retreats with more than she came with. "I am more filled up than emptied (by) what I put into it. It is passion that fills my cup every time."
The retreat is the brainchild of Fargo-native Micaela Brancato, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and husband Matthew Brancato, a colonel. Both are Air Force Academy grads and now full-time guard.
"We found that every year when we meet these strong, resilient ladies that it fulfills us, as well, and it is our passion in life to give back to the military in this way," Brancato said.
Yasin Wade of Washington, D.C., lost her husband, Daniel, while he was serving on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, leaving her to raise three boys. She can't get enough of Holbrook Retreat.
"I feel myself relax, the scenery, the environment being on the lake, it is the people, no external noise," Wade said.