Category Archives: #hiddenheroes

2015 Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit: Progress and Promise

In May the Elizabeth Dole Foundation hosted the 2015 Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit: Progress and Promise in Washington, D.C. Here are a few of the highlights.

Donald Trump attended a private session with the Fellows to learn about our experiences and concerns.

image

Donald Trump with Melissa, Allyson, and Jennifer

2015 Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit: Progress and Promise

image

Hidden Heroes Summit Melissa Johnson, SD Fellow, Heather Pritchard, Home Depot Foundation, Tim Fallon, Operation Homefront, Jessica Allen, TN Fellow Photo courtesy of Lynn Dykstra, Focused Images

As part of a panel of caregivers, I shared difficulties we have encountered as a Reserve Component family living in a rural  community.

image

Michelle Obama speaks at the Hidden Heroes Summit Photo courtesy of Lynn Dykstra, Focused Images

Senator Elizabeth Dole, VA Secretary Robert Mcdonald, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Tom Hanks addressed the audience.

The 2015 Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit: Progress and Promise Produced Focused Initiatives and Overwhelming Support for Military and Veteran Caregivers

http://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/2015-hidden-heroes-coalition-summit-progress-promise-produced-focused-initiatives-overwhelming-support-military-veteran-caregivers/

Pastor Joel Osteen joined us for the Focus on Faith Reception.

image

Patty, Melissa, Pastor Joel Osteen, Melissa, and Liz

image

Meeting Senator John McCain

Pastor Joel Osteen Joins Senator Elizabeth Dole at Hidden Heroes: Focus on Faith Reception to Inspire Bipartisan, Interfaith Cooperation

http://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/pastor-joel-osteen-joins-senator-elizabeth-dole-hidden-heroes-focus-faith-reception-inspire-bipartisan-interfaith-cooperation/

image

Senator Bob Dole Photo courtesy of Lynn Dykstra, Focused Images

Visit the links below for additional information.

Wounded Warrior Caregiving Hero:  Meet Melissa Johnson

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/8/wounded-warrior-caregiving-hero-meet-melissa-johns/

Washington Times Series A Month Long Salute to Wounded Warrior Caregivers

http://www.washingtontimes.com/specials/month-long-salute-wounded-warrior-caregivers/


A Busy Month

February 2015 was filled with travel.

I had one day between each trip to unpack, wash laundry, and repack before catching the next flight out.

We started the month with an Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. We reconnected with our friends from Week 7 along with OHOP staff members (thanks, Jean Claude for the delicious meals!) and attended sessions on marriage, TBI, and PTSD.

Read more about Operation Heal Our Patriots:

Video Reuniting Veterans

Military Couples Encouraged, Challenged During Reunion

IMG_1735

Week 7

The following week I flew to DC to participate in the Hidden Heroes Impact Forum for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation along with several other caregivers. The forum brought together members from public, private, and nonprofit organizations to address gaps in services for caregivers, identify the problems, and draft real solutions.

The interest shown by all participants was validating and reassuring. We shared our personal stories and led the discussions regarding our needs and pitfalls in current programs. We worked within our groups to develop viable strategies to start making solid improvements for the caregiver community.

Learn more about the Impact Forums here:

Time to Give Hidden Military Heroes Their Due

Leading Experts and Advocates to Collaborate on Critical Caregiving Issues Through Elizabeth Dole Foundation Impact Councils

Senator Elizabeth Dole Convenes Leading Experts and Advocates Around Critical Caregiving Issues

Hidden Heroes: America’s Military Caregivers

Elizabeth Dole Foundation

IMG_1672

Dole Fellows L to R Melissa Johnson, Jennifer MackInday, Blair Hughes, Shannon Tuimaleali’fano, Virginia Peacock, Jessica Allen, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Melissa Comeau, Emery Popoloski

IMG_1644

Panel Members L to R Melissa Johnson, Betty Easley, Blair Hughes, Virginia Peacock, and moderator Lynda Davis

Sean and I rounded out the month by attending Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities Couples Retreat in Snowmass, CO. Sean had the opportunity to ski with his friend and guide Jeff, and we met several new couples. Cole and I hung out around the lodge and caught up on some reading, writing, and napping. We always love our time in the Snowmass area!

Read more about Challenge Aspen and CAMO:

http://challengeaspen.org/military/

IMG_0031

Sean, Jeff, and Cole

IMG_1790

Sean and Jeff headed out for the afternoon

 


Hidden Heroes

The blisters have nearly healed. It’s been almost three weeks since I traveled DC with a marvelous group of nearly 60 men and women who are part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Caregiver Fellows Program.  During this trip I reconnected with old friends and met new friends I’ve only known online.  We spent time sharing our stories and experiences with one another and forging a special bond that can only be felt by those who have been through similar experiences.  And we walked for miles on the endless marble and concrete that is Capitol Hill.

We spent Thursday on Capitol Hill meeting individually with our congressional leaders to present the findings of the newly released RAND study Hidden Heroes:  America’s Military Caregivers and to explain why this study matters, why these statistics are more than numbers on a page, and to give a face to the 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers in our nation.

That morning Senator Patty Murray introduced S.2243 – Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2014. A related bill was previously introduced in the House by Representative Elizabeth Etsy. H.R.3383 – Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act of 2013. You can watch Senator Murry introduce her bill here Murray Introduces Major Military and Veteran Caregiver Bill.

On Friday we attended a Joining Forces event at the White House where First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, along with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Senator Dole, announced programs and initiatives designed to support caregivers of the nation’s veterans and active duty service members. You can watch these announcements at this link Support for Military and Veterans’ Caregivers.

While being invited to the White House (and sitting in the front row!) was immensely exciting, the event had a larger impact as I looked around the White House reception and realized that everywhere I looked was the familiar face of a caregiver.  For the first time ever we had a collective voice on a national level, a voice that reached far beyond the walls of the White House into the homes of other caregivers who, like us, have been fighting for years to be heard.

Empowering.  To be part of a group gathered with common concerns and goals working to make changes in our own lives, and the lives of others.  To reflect on the past eight years and recall how utterly alone I felt when this journey started.  To realize, at last, it was time to address the needs of the caregivers.  We will not be still.

Learn more about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Hidden Heroes:  The National Coalition for Military Caregivers at www.elizabethdolefoundation.org.

You can read the entire RAND report entitled  Hidden Heroes:  America’s Military Caregivers at this link http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR499.html.

#DoleFellows #hiddenheroes

Cherry Blossoms in full bloom

Cherry Blossoms in full bloom

Dole Fellows with Congresswoman Susan Davis, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Dole Fellows with Congresswoman Susan Davis, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

White House

The White House

Front and nearly center in the East Room

Front and nearly center in the East Room