We entered the JP Morgan board room on a rainy Tuesday morning for breakfast and there to greet us was Sen. Dole. She was wearing a beautiful emerald green suit and was smiling from ear to ear. I was taken aback by her warm and inviting presence. She hugged and kissed every single one of us. Twenty caregivers were invited and we were excited to see what the day held.
Sen. Dole’s introduction included her astounding list of accomplishments. I hung on her every word. Her numerous policy-changing accomplishments inspire me. Then each of the caregivers shared a bit of our stories. Sen. Dole let her tears flow freely as she was moved by each story.
After our introductions we headed to the National Press Club for lunch. I was seated next to the director of the VA’s caregiver program. It was nice to chat with her and get more information to help the ladies I work with. After a delicious lunch we left for the RAND Corporation where they would film our stories for the Dole Foundation website. I was thoroughly impressed with how articulate and open the caregivers were as they shared their stories. Every story is so unique and empowering.
The final task for the day was to do a 90-minute research study with the RAND Corporation regarding the needs of caregivers. The ten caregivers in the room were able to express the needs we have, explain which programs work and which do not and share what we need done in the future to help us. It is an amazing feeling to have them ask us, the caregivers that live with Wounded Warriors every day, what we need. It was the first time we felt we were heard without begging and pleading for someone to listen first.
That evening we were taken by bus to visit our nation’s monuments, complete with servings of champagne and chocolate. We had so much fun chatting and visiting the beautiful monuments. D.C. at night is enchanting and, at times, haunting. Sen. Dole strolled through World War II monument with us. We were told that her and her husband visit the monument many Saturday’s throughout the year. I was blessed with the opportunity to take a photo with her in front of the Freedom Wall.
The goal of the Dole Foundation is to establish grants for organizations to use to meet the needs of caregivers of Wounded Warriors. I am incredibly honored to be a part of the fellowship and I can’t wait to see what will come of this in the future. It is nice to be heard and recognized for our sacrifices too.