With Veterans Day, our thoughts turn typically to “him who has borne the battle,” in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, which are now enshrined above the entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Yes, veterans are usually “him,” but increasingly also a “her,” thanks to more women serving today, estimated at 15 percent of the Armed Forces. But something we’re even less likely to “see” when we focus on the veteran in the picture is the unsung hero standing right behind him or her – the military caregiver, often a spouse or partner, sometimes a parent.
The Rand Corp., acknowledging the unavoidable imprecision in estimating the number of military caregivers, in a 2013 report estimated that somewhere between 250,000 and possibly as many as 1 million Americans are serving or have served as caregivers to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Not all injuries are immediately apparent, and care needs can fluctuate over time. That’s why the figure could be even higher, according to Rand. When you add in veterans from other wars, such as Vietnam, those figures keep climbing.
And some of the severely injured veterans, such as Houston native Anthony Thompson, a former Navy medic who served as a corpsman in Iraq, are so disabled by their injuries that they require around-the-clock care. Ivonne Estrada Thompson, a high school Spanish teacher and also a Houston native, was newly married to Anthony in 2007 when he left on his second deployment. She was also pregnant with their first child. (continue reading here)