Making it Matter: Veteran Caregivers

Making it Matter: Veteran Caregivers
Photo Credit: WDAM
Photo Credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - For countless U.S. veterans, the struggles in service often times are nothing compared to the struggles in the life that follows. For S Sgt. Marjory Harris, that's a big problem.

"It's not enough to complain about what's wrong with the world. You have to step up to the plate," said Harris.

She's one of many veteran caregivers across the country dedicating themselves to help serve those who've served or currently serve their country. In her case, that veteran is her husband.

"It's a day to day and sometimes an hour to hour basis depending on what's going on with him and how he's feeling," said Harris.

With 20 years in the National Guard herself, she and her husband met while at Camp Shelby. It was also there when she realized just how much of an issue it is, veterans needing care on so many different levels.

"I started looking at resources that they needed that weren't there. I decided that something needed to be changed," said Harris.

That's where the Elizabeth Dole Foundation comes in. Harris applied to become a fellow for Mississippi and she got it. The foundation's goal is to give a voice to military and veteran caregivers who volunteer to serve as advocates and ambassadors. Harris has been doing it for about 10 years and works with a dedicated group of folks sharing her passion and it's not always easy.

"Care givers in general face a great financial difficulty. The majority of them can no longer work because they're caring for the veteran," said Harris.

Lieutenant Colonel Deidre Smith with the Mississippi National Guard says the same pride and honor veterans serve their country with are the same pride and honor keeping them from asking for help.

"There's no shame in asking for help. However, sometimes what we see in these cases is the need gets really great before someone will finally step forward and ask for help," said Smith.

From paperwork, to doctors visits, Harris says many who need help for whatever reason simply don't know where to turn or what resources, if any, are available. For those who never seek help, Smith and Harris say it can lead to an unfortunate statistic known as "22 a day,"  the number of veterans who commit suicide.

"Whatever demographic anyone wants to throw at, those are 22 human lives that chose to defend their county that no longer feel connected to it, "said Harris.

With her husband now medically retired from the military, Harris says her mission in life is one she's hoping will open the eyes of others, and create change.

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