When my husband Bob went to Iraq to cover the war, I was worried but didn’t think of it the way families of our soldiers do. After all, he was there as the anchor of ABC News.
But then the call came that he had been severely injured. Like more than 1 million wives, mothers and other family members of post-9/11 veterans, I became a caregiver.
With a traumatic brain injury, no one can tell you how it will end, or how much the victim will recover. There are no percentages; each injury is as individual as we are. And although our family had a happy ending and a strong recovery, I can vividly recall how each day of that early period in the ICU contained a fresh set of worries.
Worries that often overshadow the caregiver’s own needs—a sense of guilt that my troubles were nothing compared to Bob’s.
Once, I was talked into going for a massage. As good as it felt, I couldn’t help but to wonder if that would be the moment he would awake from his medically induced coma.
Similar fears and doubts prevent many caregivers from seeking the help they need, which is why I was so honored to share a conversation onstage with Sen. Elizabeth Dole at the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge conference, May 12, in Washington, DC.
As she said, this is “a societal crisis that requires a national response.”
And through Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, she has accomplished much in bringing the plight of families to the forefront; however, there is still much to do.
The only way to do that is through collaboration. It’s far too easy to operate in silos, but there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing the overall needs of our veterans and their families.
The collaboration must come from across sectors. A perfect example is the TAPS Caregiver Peer Support Network. In addition to the Dole Foundation and Bob Woodruff Foundation, several funders came to the table to make this project a reality: Bristol-Myers Squibb paid for the online peer-to-peer support program; Wounded Warrior Project is providing Peer Mentor Support training.
But there’s more we can do and must include the military, government, service providers, nonprofits, corporations—and most importantly—the families themselves.
Only then can we truly leverage the sea of goodwill already found with the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge.