This week we celebrate the 4th of July with parades and fireworks, marching bands and BBQs. We pause as a nation to collectively reflect on 243 years of independence and human flourishing. We are mindful of the cost of freedom and those who have given their lives to secure it for us. Certainly, veterans and active service members will receive and deserve a grateful salute. But if you’re feeling patriotic this week, may I suggest you hug a military caregiver.
Military caregivers often go unnoticed by the general public. Yet these steadfast individuals love, care and advocate for the wounded, ill and injured warriors who return from the battlefield. Many organizations heap attention on the needs of service members. Few direct resources and recognition to the 5.5 million spouses, parents and loved ones who care for those who cared for us.
In 2012, Sen. Elizabeth Dole set out to change that dynamic. A long-time caregiver herself to husband Bob Dole, she founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to raise public awareness, drive research, champion policy and lead collaborations in support of military caregivers and their families. Shortly after, the Foundation launched its Hidden Heroes initiative to inspire individuals, businesses, and civic, faith and government leaders to support caregivers in communities across the U.S.
“Hidden Heroes is our way of providing these selfless men and women serving in the shadows with the help and recognition they deserve,” says Sen. Dole. She tapped actor Tom Hanks to serve as the Hidden Heroes Campaign Chair. Says Hanks, “Military caregivers rarely ask for help, but they deserve our support.” Indeed, last month, through its Hidden Heroes Fund, the Dole Foundation awarded more than $500,000 to a dozen nonprofits. These organizations support caregivers in a variety of ways:
- Case management
- Employment and workplace support
- Mental health assistance
If you’re feeling patriotic this week, thank a veteran. But don’t forget to hug a military caregiver as well. Then, check out these Hidden Heroes grant recipients. Learn how you can lend your support to honor and uplift our military caregivers.
2019 Hidden Heroes Grant Recipients
Code of Support — provides direct, hands-on support to military caregivers through its Caregiver Peer Navigators program
Dog Tag Bakery — operates a five-month business and entrepreneurship fellowship that provides participants with first-hand experience working in a small business environment
Helen Ross McNabb Center — offers free, specialized individual family therapy in support of military veterans and their caregivers in the Eastern Tennessee region
National Military Family Association — hosts Operation Purple Buddy Camp for Caregivers to help military families foster better communication and deepen family relationships
Operation Gratitude — creates and delivers care packages to caregivers nationwide through its Wounded Hero & Caregiver Program
Project New Hope — hosts a caregiver retreat in Maine to provide self-care strategies, resiliency awareness, and support resources
Public Counsel — provides free legal services to military caregivers to ensure they and the veterans in their care receive the benefits and services to which they are legally entitled
Quality of Life Foundation — offers tailored, non-traditional support to military caregivers and their families through its Wounded Veteran Care Program
The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals — provides military caregivers with access to high quality behavioral health support
Student Veterans of America — conducts survey research to gain insight into the needs of student veterans who are caregivers, caregivers of student veterans, and college students who are caregivers
UCLA Operation Mend — is developing a self-report assessment for caregivers that addresses emotional support concerns
Veterans LYFE Services — supports veterans and caregivers with a range of services through its Battle Born Caregivers program; services include PTSD 12-Step, music therapy, life alignment and coaching, life management assessment, a Caregiver Summit, and Empowerment Circles
Photo Credit: Hidden Heroes Chairman Tom Hanks welcomes military caregivers | Elizabeth Dole Foundation