WINDSOR – According to the Hidden Heroes website, there are more than 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers in the United States. They don’t often ask for help, but they do deserve our support because they donate about $14 million a year as an unpaid work force.
Last week they picked up some support in the form of a resolution passed by the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, one that supports those who sacrifice for those others who’ve given the greatest sacrifice: for our freedom.
As part of her trip to the National Association of County Commissioners’ (NACo) annual meeting in Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas), District III Commissioner Tammy Lee brought back information on the Elizabeth Dole Foundation – headed by the former U.S. Senator from North Carolina.
“I serve on the NACo Veterans and Military Services Committee, and this past month when we were in Clark County, I got an invitation to a dinner sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and they introduced to us the Hidden Heroes program,” Lee said. “I brought this information back, shared it with the County Manager (Scott Sauer) and with Miss (Bertie Veteran Services Director Denise) Clark; who also got an email from the Foundation.
“I bring this back to the county as another way of our helping our veterans,” Lee noted. “We owe them a lot.”
The Dole Foundation is primarily about those caregivers, and Lee said they shared stories at the dinner.
“It was very touching,” Lee acknowledged. “And I believe we have some citizens here in the county who are going through some of the same things. There is help out there through the Veterans Administration, but it’s not local.”
Lee said the resolution is the first step (“It won’t cost us a thing,” she emphasized) and could aid the county’s Veterans Services department with local help for their schedule.
A video was played for the Commissioners, narrated by Dole, which told the tale of her husband, World War II veteran and former Kansas U.S. Senator Bob Dole, and the challenges he faced being treated at Walter Reed Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.
“We need efforts-based research,” stated Dole in the film. “Our political leaders must stand with our veterans and their caregivers.”
“I’m a driver, I’m a cook, I’m the bill-payer, all those things, and I’m also a mom,” one caregiver stated, sharing her story on camera. “As a caregiver you feel sometimes like you are carrying a 210-pound man through the day emotionally. He did his part, now it’s my turn to take over for him.”
Other stories followed during the presentation, and in the end, Dole said contributions to the Foundation and its mission are the best ways to respond. So far, they have expanded VA services for caregivers with more than 150 Dole Caregivers representing all 50 states.
“These are your Hidden Heroes, America, but there are millions more going across the country to mobilize, educate, and empower countless caregivers to be a voice for themselves,” Dole concluded. “Our legacy will be made when we have a shift in the culture and they are woven into the very fabric of our nation’s appreciation for the military.”
“Our veterans may not be walking around without limbs,” implored Lee. “But if they’ve served time overseas and in war and have a disability, then the spouses, parents, siblings, and children are the ones who must now care for them with no support system.”
Lee then suggested a motion to adopt the resolution which states that Bertie County would now be recognized as a Hidden Heroes community; much like Fayetteville, Raleigh, Salisbury, Durham, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte. Commissioners chairman John Trent introduced the motion, seconded by Commissioner Ron Wesson.
“Thank you, Commissioner Lee,” said Trent. “That presentation was very inspirational.”
Bertie County thus becomes the first Hidden Heroes county in North Carolina, joining the six other cities statewide to better serve caregivers and share the best practices.