Tom Ward hasn’t stood in formation in more than three decades, but the Marine veteran lives with a degenerative disease the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed is connected to his service so many years ago. Joe Swoboda completed three tours in Iraq and he, too, lives with health issues that impact his mental and physical well-being. Besides both being veterans, Joe and Tom have another thing in common: dedicated caregivers in their wives Melanie and Mary. But for all of Joe and Tom’s commonalities, the fact that each man served in different wars mean that Melanie and Mary don’t have the same benefits offered to them as veteran caregivers.
In late September, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation launched a new nonprofit initiative called Hidden Heroes, a resource network and fellowship program intended to recognize the underappreciated contribution of those who care for physically and psychologically disabled veterans. At the launch gala, actor Tom Hanks introduced the program and noted, “By military caregivers … we’re talking about wives, and family members, and girlfriends, and kids, and parents.”
On. Sept. 27, Tom Hanks and former Sen. Elizabeth Dole officially announced the launch of Hidden Heroes, a national campaign to raise awareness and garner support for the nation’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers.
Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Monet Villacorte
Roughly 5.5 million people serve as caregivers for veteran family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lesser known benefit for these family members. Known as Caregiver Support Services, these benefits aim to help family members who are tasked with the primary care of a disabled veteran.