Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Hidden Heroes
Caregiver Journey Map Campaign for Inclusive Care

Ann Marie Pacciano

You’ll drown if you try to do it alone.

When did you realize you were a military caregiver?

Ten years ago, after my husband was medically discharged from the military after 35 years, I was teaching full-time. I could tell that there was something wrong. My husband was depressed, so I quit my job to focus on finding resources to help him.

What advice do you wish you had when you first became a military caregiver?

I wish someone had told me that I shouldn’t take on all the responsibilities of caregiving myself, because you’ll drown if you try to do it all. You should reach out to find help and resources because you are not alone.

How has being a military caregiver changed you?

Being a military caregiver has made me more powerful and more of an advocate. I no longer feel like a victim and now feel empowered to care for my husband.

My Story

Ann Marie has been happily married to her husband, Gary, for over 42 years. They have two married sons and four grandchildren. Gary proudly served in the Army National Guard and Reserves for over 35 years. He went on active duty for four years shortly after 9/11 and while serving was medically released due to physical and psychological issues including leg, nerve, back, shoulder, and spinal injuries. Ann Marie needed to take an early retirement from her much-loved teaching career in order to assume her role as a full-time caregiver for her husband. She previously worked for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation as the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community Program Assistant.

In her role as a Dole Fellow, Ann Marie teaches what she has learned as a caregiver, drawing on her professional and personal experiences as an educator and as a military wife.