Families, Caregivers and Readiness
by U.S. Army MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition
August 25, 2018
A huge thank you is owed to the families and caregivers of our wounded, injured and ill Soldiers; the unsung heroes of our heroes. In his April monthly newsletter, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shannon continued to focus on readiness and cost savings while paying homage to the military family.
“Our families’ support allows us to remain focused on our mission, and I thank them for the vital role they play in ensuring our nation’s security,” Shannon said.
U.S. Army Col. Matthew St Laurent, Deputy Chief of Staff for Warrior Care and Transition, knows firsthand how crucial the family support is to overall readiness and the well-being of a wounded, ill or injured Soldier.
“As Deputy, Chief of Staff for Warrior Care and Transition, I have full appreciation and regard for all our Soldiers’ families and caregivers who dedicate their resources, time, sweat, multitude of emotions, and sometimes forego professional careers to cover down on the invaluable support the Army cannot provide during the transition of a Soldier afflicted with wounds, illness, or injuries incurred in the line of duty,” said St Laurent.
The role family and friends take on as a caregiver has effects beyond helping the Soldier. Marianne Campano from the Office of Army Public Health shared numbers and research showing the impact of how families and caregivers help the force economically.
“Post 9/11/01 Military Caregiver duties are estimated to be worth close to $3 billion,” Campano said. “According to a 2011 Hidden Heroes report, military caregivers provide benefits to not only their loved one, but also society. The care they render helps reduce health care costs to the government and society.”
Linda Mills knows what it means to be a caregiver. Her husband, retired Staff Sgt. Andrew Mills was severely injured by an improvised explosive device in 2012 while on his third deployment to Afghanistan. He has since undergone more than 30 surgeries to repair his injuries.
Wounded warrior retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Mills with his wife, Linda, and children in December 2017. (Photo courtesy of Linda Mills)
The injuries have forced Mills to learn skills she never thought she would need. Before becoming a caregiver, Mills had a career as a marketing director at a nursing facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She says her college education prepared her for a career in business, but it never prepared her for a career in caregiving.
“Over the last six years, I’ve gained some "honorary" skills as a caregiver: I’m a nurse; I’m a physical and occupational therapist; I'm a counselor; I’m a professional note taker, chauffeur, and scheduler; I’m a cheerleader and a coach; I’m an advocate,” Mills said.
St Laurent has met many spouses, like Mills, neighbors, friends and relatives that have all found themselves in the vital role of caregiver for their Soldier and the Army. “The job and duties of a caregiver must be done, whether from a family member, friend, community, or a hired agency. And for a Soldier of significant wounds, illnesses, or injuries, caregiving responsibilities can be very complex, particularly for a family member who now has dual responsibilities,” St Laurent said.
Becoming a caregiver is not a planned job, but Mills, and others across the Army and other branches, have embraced the role.
“Becoming a Military Caregiver wasn’t a job that I was seeking; it’s not a job that anyone plans to have. But it’s a job that I take seriously. I was a military spouse, first and foremost, proudly serving in the ‘one percent’ of the population who commits their lives to the United States Military. [Being a caregiver] is a job that allows me to hold my head up proudly every day,” added Mills.