Spouses know that caring for a veteran -- no matter how severe or invisible his or her injury -- can be a lonely business, especially if the family has moved back to a community that is not near a military base.
That loneliness is one of the key feelings Hearts of Valor, a part of Operation Homefront, seeks to combat through a veteran caregiver program. Previously known as Wounded Warrior Wives, Hearts of Valor serves military spouse caregivers by connecting them to peer-to-peer support, retreats and resources.
"One of the biggest things that I've noticed in the caregiver community is isolation," said Sara Boz, a psychologist and the program's senior director. "The caregivers often tell me that they do not have anybody in their immediate friends and family that they can go to and talk to, because no one really understands."
But by connecting caregivers to each other, the Hearts of Valor program can work through that. With more than 3,200 caregivers registered in the program and more than 60 meetups nationwide, the program coordinators can link up caregivers with others who know what they are dealing with because they have dealt with it too.
"Hearts of Valor is a community of other people in the same experiences," Boz said. "They have a lot of situations that are similar and only a caregiver can really, truly understand what another caregiver is going through."
For veteran caregivers in the program who do not live near an official program meetup, she said the program may be able to connect them with just one or two other caregivers in the region. The program also hosts a few free annual caregiver retreats that those in the group can register to attend. And if all else fails, Hearts of Valor can help the caregiver connect with resources in his or her local community.
Everyone who joins Hearts of Valor is confirmed as an actual military caregiver through documents shared with Operation Homefront during the registration process, Boz said. And while the group is officially for post-9/11 veteran caregivers only, they do make case-by-case exceptions if a veteran caregiver of a previous conflict era is in need of help.
To get involved in Hearts of Valor, caregivers can visit and register on the Hearts of Valor website.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.