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A Month Long Salute to Wounded Warrior Caregivers

The Washington Times and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation pay tribute to Wounded Warrior Caregivers each day during the entire month of May.

Recent Stories

Sami Anderson

Wounded Warrior Caregiving Hero: Meet Sami Anderson

This year, Sami Anderson and her husband Garrett celebrate the number 10 it represents both their tenth wedding anniversary and ten years since Garrett's "Alive Day," the day an IED detonated under his Humvee on a night mission in Baghdad. Only six months separated the two events.

Wounded Warrior Caregiving Hero: Meet Liz Hunt

Liz Hunt's husband, Rob, was medically retired in 2014 after struggling with declining health, the result of severe chronic migraines, spinal damage, cognitive and memory issues, nerve damage, multiple traumatic brain injuries, as well as nightmares and PTSD. On his worst days, Rob needs emergency medical care to manage his pain. But that's not what the public sees when they look at him. They don't see the accumulation of physical and mental injuries that resulted from his 28 years of service. Rob's wounds are largely invisible to them, with the only outward clue being his use of a cane on days when his gate is unstable.

A salute to homefront heroes

Hats off to The Washington Times for using Military Appreciation Month to shine a light on the war on terror's unsung heroes -- military caregivers. These selfless individuals are the parents and siblings — but more often the spouses -- of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines recovering from the painful and horrific wounds of war.

What caregivers need: A plea from one hidden hero

There are 5.5 million Americans who have stepped up to become caregivers for wounded warriors, saving our nation $13.6 billion yearly in health care costs. These hidden heroes are simultaneously losing $5.9 billion in their own productivity by putting their careers, education and life as they knew it on hold when their loved one was injured or suffered from a medical illness due to serving in the military.

How America is rallying around the 'hidden heroes' who care for our wounded warriors

It's hard to believe it was just over a year ago that we released an eye-opening report from the RAND Corporation identifying the needs and gaps in support facing the "hidden heroes" of America's wars: the spouses, family members and friends who have dedicated their lives to caring for our wounded, ill and injured warriors. These brave women and men — just like the heroes they are caring for — are making a commitment of service that will stretch for decades. And yet our nation overlooked their critical role for far too long, leaving them to care for our wounded without the support they need or deserve.

Riders participate in the the annual Rolling Thunder 'Ride for Freedom' motorcycle rally, with the Lincoln Memorial in the background, in Washington, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Rolling Thunder rides with pride into D.C.

- The Washington Times

Rolling Thunder has much more to offer than motorcycles on Memorial Day: The nonprofit group provides year-round aid to veterans and their families to help pay for meals, mortgages and other bills to prevent homelessness.

For soldiers, man's best friend is a great healer

- The Washington Times

There was a noble tribute this week for hero humans and hero dogs just a block from the U.S. Capitol. The famous, powerful and political gathered to celebrate K9s for Warriors, a nonprofit that pairs rescue dogs with military veterans who must deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Among the many who attended was retired USMC Captain Jason Haag and Axel, a splendid German Shepherd who was there for him in some very dark moments.

Community Support at Home

A reporter recently asked a Maryland woman caring for her husband, a severely injured combat veteran, what kind of help she needed in the first months following her husband's return.

On a mission: Gary Sinise, in a heavy understatement, says "it's a busy time" for his efforts to support active-duty service members and military veterans. (Associated Press)

Hollywood, star Gary Sinise now entertains only for veterans

- The Washington Times

Gary Sinise began providing free performances and dinners for Vietnam veterans -- what he called "vets nights" -- in the late 1970s, long before he was a household name thanks to his Oscar-nominated portrayal of the man who loses his legs in the jungles of Vietnam.

Respite Care

Becoming a military or veteran caregiver is complicated, consuming, and emotionally and physically debilitating -- with no advance warning, no preparation, and often nowhere to turn for help.

Mental and Physical Health

The role of a military or veteran caregiver can be all-consuming and stressful, leaving little time or energy for caregivers to tend to their own needs, often resulting in a deterioration of their physical and mental well-being.

Education and Training

Becoming a military or veteran caregiver is complicated, consuming, and emotionally and physically debilitating with no advance warning, no preparation, and often nowhere to turn for help. No one is ever prepared for the call that tells them their spouse, parent, sibling, son or daughter has suffered a life-altering physical or mental injury or illness. Too many of our military families face that reality.

Caring for Our Nation's Hidden Heroes?

When a key group of leaders and advocates gathered in a conference room outside Washington, D.C. earlier this year to discuss the extraordinary struggles faced by the loved ones caring for our nation's wounded, ill and injured veterans, the conversation grew heated as the group worked to rank the largest threats to the physical and mental well-being of military caregivers. A consensus seemed elusive until a caregiver -- a woman who has served as the primary caregiver for her husband since he returned from Afghanistan with severe PTSD -- spoke over the crowd: "None of this matters if we're dead," she said, referring to her fellow caregivers. The room fell silent. Suddenly, the need for suicide prevention support was at the top of a list.

Community support at home

A reporter recently asked a Maryland woman caring for her husband, a severely injured combat veteran, what kind of help she needed in the first months following her husband's return. She responded, "If someone had offered to pick up the groceries for me, I would have cried out of relief. They wouldn't have had to pay for the groceries, just pick them up, so I could stay by my husband's side and take care of what he needed."

Employment and Workplace Support

Caregiving is a time-intensive commitment, which can have a profound impact on military and veteran caregivers who are currently employed or need work. The two-year RAND study commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation found that many employed caregivers work in full-time positions because they are now the sole income provider for the family. Of those caregivers surveyed, many also found that the time devoted to caregiving required adjustments in their work schedules, often resulting in lost income and financial strain. This is particularly significant for employed post- 9/11 military caregivers, whose absenteeism is 3.5 days per month, much higher than the average for civilian and pre- 9/11 caregivers, which is one day per month. This puts a strain on both the employer and employee in terms of income, wages, lost productivity, and the consequences of unmet deadlines.

Financial and Legal Issues

Military and veteran caregivers who contributed to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's RAND study acknowledge that long-term financial planning has been a complex and often overwhelming responsibility. The consequences of not planning ahead can be severe, but thinking through their futures forces caregivers to confront difficult and unknown possibilities.

Elizabeth Dole

A letter from Elizabeth Dole

This month, The Washington Times will open a window to the military and veteran caregiver community. Each day you will read stories of incredible resilience, love and determination.

Miss Sweeney of Austin, Texas, who blazed onto the country music scene in 2010 and by 2013 was nominated as one of the industry's rising female stars, performed a few songs for the veterans and their families, as children danced and sang along in the crowd. (Khalid Naji-Allah/Special to The Washington Times)

Country star Sunny Sweeney, Times salute Wounded Warrior caregivers

- The Washington Times

It's often called the "nerd prom," the one time of the year when Washington elite, Hollywood celebrities and powerbrokers from around the country descend on the nation's capital to break bread and make light of an often tense and divisive political atmosphere, when even sharp barbs at the leader of the free world are in bounds.