A new national public awareness campaign seeks to leverage celebrity appearances to raise public support for veteran caregivers.
Rolled out Tuesday at an event on Capitol Hill, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's Hidden Heroes campaign includes a series of televised and print public service announcements featuring actor and campaign chair Tom Hanks, partnerships with cities nationwide, and the launch of the website HiddenHeroes.org, officials said.
"Today, the foundation envisions an America where military caregivers are empowered, appreciated and recognized for their service to their nation," said Dole, a former Republican senator from North Carolina. "We envision an America where supporting military caregivers is not just the mission of our foundation, it is the mission of our nation. Turning that vision into a reality is what today is all about."
She started the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in 2012 after meeting a number of military spouses and family members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who were assisting with the care of troops injured in combat.
Since then, the foundation has worked to raise awareness of caregiver issues, including commissioning a national report on caregivers through Rand Corp. and selecting caregivers for fellowships.
The campaign and foundation's efforts are supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is set to announce a series of new caregiver support initiatives at a Wednesday event, officials said.
As part of the Hidden Heroes campaign, the Dole Foundation is looking to start a national registry of the estimated 5.5 million veteran caregivers to connect them with support and resources, Hanks said at the event.
"You need to simply raise your hand, and you need to share your story," he said. "You need to find support, and you need to let us know what you've been up to every day since you got the news."
The campaign is also adding to its list of more than 50 cities nationwide that have taken a pledge to support military caregivers through community outreach and education, he said.
"America is ready ... to say, of course, 'Thank you for your service,' but we are also ready to ask, 'What can we do to help you now?' " Hanks told caregivers at the event.
"You're no longer hidden. You're certainly not alone. America is ready to serve along with you every single day. It's our turn to care for you."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.