FORT BRAGG, N.C. - With deployments and work assignments cycling Soldiers in and out of Fort Bragg, peace and relaxation can seem more than a world away.

For this very reason volunteers at one coastal community have created a resort specifically for Soldiers and their Families to take it easy, enjoy some peace, and generally feel at ease beside the Atlantic Ocean.

The resort, situated two hours east of Fort Bragg at Saint James Plantation, N.C., is called Operation At Ease.

"OAE operates on an eight-month schedule, hosting Families between the months of March and October, with few exceptions on the second and fourth weekends of the month," said Don Hill, project coordinator and member of OAE board of directors.

"There's an array of athletic clubs on site, four golf courses, a marketplace on the harbor and a crew of over 100 volunteers ready to do what we can to help veterans feel comfortable and relaxed.

Since April of 2008 over 200 military Families have enjoyed these mini-vacations," Don said.
Last year, Spc. Corey Dedmon, his wife Lindsey and their one year-old daughter Hayden, nearly found themselves overwhelmed by the luxury of the all-expenses-paid trip to the coast.

"It was nicer than we expected," said Lindsey. "They're really there for you and provide what you need."

Everything from gas cards to free pizza and complimentary gifts are provided by OAE. These amenities, explained Don, also include access to the marina restaurant for a breakfast, and two additional amenities from a list which includes activities like kayaking the intercoastal waterway, a boat trip, a series of Family photos on the beach or at the marina, full use of the Saint James Ocean Beach facility -- including beach umbrella, buggy boards and beach equipment for the children, a massage or facial, golf, tennis and what Don said is the most popular -- a ferry trip across the Cape Fear River to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

"I would tell other Families to take advantage of what's out there and appreciate what people do for you because they appreciate what we do for them," said Lindsey Dedmon, reflecting on her time at OAE.

(Editor's note: Signing up for a weekend with Operation At Ease can be coordinated by applying through their website at www.oaeamerica.org.)

Page last updated Fri February 10th, 2012 at 00:00