Supporting Military Caregivers
with Betsy Eves of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers are comprised of spouses, parents, family members and friends.
Betsy Eves of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation shares how her organization is strengthening and empowering America’s military caregivers, resulting in a significant impact on health care outcomes for those who have served in uniform.
Nov 04, 2019
Lisnek: More than 5 million Americans serve as military caregivers, providing support to injured or ill service members and veterans. Hi, welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Paul Lisnek. Military caregivers often make sacrifices of their own, whether it's halting their lives and careers to provide care or facing significant mental, physical and financial tolls. Joining me to discuss support for military caregivers is Betsy Eves. She is the Dole Caregiver Fellow at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Betsy, thanks for being with me.
Eves: Thank you so much for having me today.
Lisnek: The work that the Elizabeth Dole Foundation does and the programs you're involved with are so very important. But I need to start with your personal story because you don't randomly walk in to this kind of work. You've dealt with and continue to deal with a stressful situation home with your husband, David. Tell me about that.
Eves: Right. So my husband is an Army veteran. He served for 12 years in the Army. He deployed three times, twice to Iraq, once to Afghanistan, and during the 2007 deployment, he suffered great loss. It was during the surge in Iraq and he lost many of his service members. He also endured over 17 close-range IED explosions, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Over the course of the next few years in those deployments, he really didn't have a lot of time to think about the trauma that had gone on in that 2007 deployment. Fast-forward to 2014. His last deployment in Afghanistan just ended] and he finally had a chance to breathe, right? So he's living -- we're living in Germany at the time, and he's starting to think about all the things that happened in that first deployment. And mentally and emotionally, he starts to break down. And in October of 2014, he had his first suicide attempt. And that was the first time that I really had an eye opening, a moment of how much the war had actually impacted him those many years ago. He was hospitalized for a week and began therapy and treatments for post-traumatic stress, his traumatic brain injury, anxiety and depression. And we've been dealing with it every day ever since.
Lisnek: You blogged about this. I mean, I knew I could ask you about that because it's something you've been public with in terms of your story.
Lisnek: And when I read -- It's so powerful to read about, for example, getting him to the hospital and afterwards and just the uncertainty that you, the family members, had to deal with. He's the patient, so to speak, in terms of what he's dealing with, but the family members have to -- The caregivers have to be prepared for anything.
Eves: Well, that's the thing, we aren't always prepared. But being a military spouse, that's kind of a part of the lifestyle. So like you mentioned getting to the hospital after a suicide attempt, how does that work? Who are the places that we go? Who are the people that we ask for help? We were stationed in Germany at the time. And so a lot of those questions that I was asking, I didn't have the answers to. So I had to figure it out on my own and I didn't know what I was doing at the time was called being a caregiver. was just surviving. I was just getting my husband the treatment and the care that he needed so that he could remain alive.
Eves: And then putting that effort to good work for other people as an Elizabeth Dole Fellow. Talk to me about the Hidden Heroes campaign.
Eves: So the Hidden Heroes campaign started a few years ago when Senator Elizabeth Dole was with her husband while he was receiving care at Walter Reed. Senator Dole would go to the hospital every day, be by her husband's side, and she looked around and saw all of these wounded, injured service members and their caregivers providing the same care that she was giving to her husband. But she said, "Where's their support? Where are the people here that are taking care [of the caregivers?" And so she vowed that she would start the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and to help provide that support to those caregivers hat are taking care of our nation's heroes.
Lisnek: And talk to me about the Operation Gratitude piece, which goes so hand-in-hand.
Eves: Right. So since being a fellow with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, I have since been joining the team at Operation Gratitude and my role there is to provide care packages filled with so many amazing items from grateful Americans across the country to these wounded service members and their caregivers. It's a thank you to them for the sacrifices they've made. And it's acknowledgement to the caregivers that we see them, [they're not alone and we support them.
Lisnek: For people who are hearing us right now and say, "I want that help, I need to contact with them," what do they do? How do they reach out?
Eves: First I suggest going to hiddenheroes.org. It's a website the Foundation has set up that has resources all across the nation available at their fingertips. There's a map on hiddenheroes.org where a caregiver can go and see what's available within their state and even other caregivers that live there. And it allows them to connect easily to those other caregivers and those resources.
Lisnek: You know, Betsy, I said I'd read your blog, I've read what you -- And you have a quote in there. You wrote this a while ago, but it just hit me so much. I want you to react to it here. You said that, "Not everyone who died in war died in combat. Not everyone who came home ever left the war." Is that David's experience?
Eves: Absolutely. Every day is a struggle for him. Every day he gets up and he is thinking about the soldiers that didn't come home in his unit. And every day, it's a struggle for him to move forward. And that's where I come in as his caregiver to kind of help him get through that day. And although his first suicide attempt happened several years ago, it's not something that has ever gone away. He's actually had two other suicide attempts since then, other hospitalizations, and it's a constant battle that we will live and deal with for the rest of our lives.
Eves: You will do that, but you're also helping others in the work that you do. And that's so very important. Thank David for his service to the country. Thank you for the service for that you do.
Eves: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Lisnek: Betsy Eves. Dole Caregiver Fellow. Congratulation.
Eves: Thank you so much.
Lisnek: Just great stuff.
Eves: Thank you.
Lisnek: And thank you for joining us as well. [01:06:08.12] [01:06:08.12] For more great conversations with leaders [01:06:09.22] [01:06:09.22] in your community and across our country, [01:06:11.18] [01:06:11.18] just go to comcastnewsmakers.com. [01:06:13.18] It's that easy. I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.