The Unsung Heroes Behind the Wounded Warriors

PHOTO: According to the Rand Corp. report, many caregivers are trying to juggle full-time jobs with full time caregiving.
Share
Copy

When Jessica Klein married her husband, Capt. Edward Klein, a 6-foot-tall, West Point graduate, the young couple had plans for adventure, in addition to raising a family.

"We were going to climb Mount Rainier," Klein told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "We were going to go, just do all these amazing things when he got home."

Today, though, Klein is the primary caregiver as her husband, known as "Flip," fights his way back from a massive lower-body injury that he suffered in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. (Jessica Klein has documented their journey on their Facebook page, Friends of Flip.)

He lost his legs, an arm and the muscles that allow him to sit. And those are just the visible wounds.

More: Snapshot of the Post-9/11 Caregiver

Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole said she witnessed the towering battle that caregivers face when she was at Walter Reed National Medical Center three years ago, caring for her husband, former war hero Sen. Bob Dole.

After speaking with the caregivers and hearing their frustrations, Elizabeth Dole said she decided it was time for the nation to help.

So she and her foundation -- The Elizabeth Dole Foundation -- commissioned a report from the RAND Corp., putting hard numbers to the caregivers to assess their needs and recommend programs that will help them.

Related: The Dole Foundation has a caregiver fellow in all 50 states. See map:

"I do think it's a crisis, a societal crisis that requires a national response," Elizabeth Dole said.

For Jessica Klein, the struggle to care for her husband daily sometimes seems too much.

"It's funny. The people around me have much more confidence in me and my abilities than I do," said Klein, 29, of Gaithersburg, Md. "You know there's the Mother Teresa quote, 'God only gives you as much as you can handle.' Well, apparently, God thinks I'm pretty good."

Related: 'Missing the Legs': An Inside Look Into One Caregiver's Life

She is just one of 1.1 million caregivers of soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq who do the impossible. Though she is tiny, Klein is Flip's support both at home and when they travel.

"There have been times I've had to pick my husband up and carry him from his wheelchair to his airplane seat because his legs failed," she said. "And showering, I've had to pick him up soaking wet and try not to drop him, one foot in the tub, and try to put him in his wheelchair."

According to the Rand Corp. report released today -- "Hidden Heroes: America's Military Caregivers" -- many caregivers are trying to juggle full-time jobs with full-time caregiving. Nearly 30 percent give up their jobs altogether. Nearly a third have no health insurance for themselves and nearly 40 percent are at risk for a major depression disorder.

Related: 'We Have PTSD': Wife of Veteran Shares Experiences

"But yeah, I grieve," Klein said. "He grieves. We grieve together. We grieve apart. There was a life we were supposed to have and we grieve for it. It's very difficult."

And it's not only the daily regimen of being a nurse, a therapist and a spouse -- military caregivers from all over the U.S. discussed the plight of taking on a system that can be famously bureaucratic and riddled with red tape.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...