For all [my husband] has done for our country, the least I can do is care for him when he needs me the most.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
The one advice that I would offer to other military and veteran caregivers is the importance of educating and advocating for yourself and your wounded warrior….don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What does being a military caregiver mean to you?
To me it means sacrifice to devote time to care for my husband when he needs me the most without making him feel like a burden. I see the pain in his eyes even when he doesn’t say anything, for all that he has done for our country, the least I can do is care for him when he needs me the most.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
Since becoming a caregiver, it’s learning how to be and do everything since my husband is no longer able to do what was once shared between us. It’s learning how to love the man he is today and understand what he is going through, the sacrifices that I have made is not being able to work outside of the home to care for my husband and our four boys.
Ililani Foree of Kailua Kona, Hawaii is a caregiver to her husband Destin, an Army veteran whom she met while he was stationed in Hawaii more than 17 years ago. In addition to caring for her husband, Ililani also cares for their four sons, one of whom has autism and makes sure he has the tools and resources to succeed. Recently, Ililani and her husband became the legal guardians to their four nieces and nephews who were facing difficult times. Part of her heart is now also overseas, as her eldest son enlisted in the service in 2019.
Destin became a commissioned combat engineer officer after serving as a combat medic for 11 years and while deployed in Afghanistan in 2011, Destin was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion. He was hospitalized for nine days and sustained hearing loss in one ear, a chronic back injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Ililani stepped up to serve as Destin’s caregiver upon his return, and their lives have never been the same. She helps Destin with daily tasks that include managing his medications, driving, scheduling doctors’ appointments, all while caring for their four sons. She has stood by his side through the toughest of times as he continues to cope with the invisible wounds of war, even stopping him from taking his own life.
Caring for her family is a full-time job and does not leave Ililani with much time to take care for herself. She has found painting to be a great stress reliever and enjoys family outings such as walking their dogs or taking trips to the beach. She also participates in events with her local Wounded Warrior Project chapter.
As a Dole Fellow, Ililani hopes to learn more about the resources available and become a stronger caregiver advocate. She would also like to work with communities in her area and help them become involved in the Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Cities program. It's in the kindness of Ililani's heart that she looks to the needs of others.