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

Jeanette Ezell

There are many challenges and obstacles I encounter, but I put my faith into action and seek to gain wisdom to solve problems and make a difference in my husband and our family’s lives.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?

My advice to other military and veteran caregivers is to keep striving to do their best. Each day has its own events. One day may be difficult, and the next day may be bright. Don’t give up. You are seen and understood more than you can possibly think.

At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?

I realized I was going to be a veteran caregiver shortly after my husband’s retirement. As MS began to aggressively reveal symptoms that were debilitating, I knew I had to be a caregiver to help sustain his ability to walk and live the best life he could. In that realization, I purposed in my heart to fulfill my vows “in sickness and in health,” to the best of my ability.

How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?

My life has changed significantly after becoming a caregiver. There have been challenges and triumphs. I resigned from my employment to become a full-time caregiver at a time when my husband needed around-the-clock care. Every day is a new adventure with its ups and downs, but every moment has been worth the sacrifices I have made. My faith in God has enabled me to endure each day’s journey as a day well spent.

My Story

Jeanette’s high school sweetheart Dwayne always dreamed about joining the Air Force. After marrying in 1984, and standing by him during his military career, she now stands with him as his caregiver and advocate.

After Dwayne returned home from the Gulf War, he started to experience symptoms that led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Its onset was mild though the disease soon began to take a toll. When Dwayne was medically retired, Jeanette became his caregiver. This was the beginning of a long journey of physical, medical, and emotional situations. Jeanette balanced marriage, Dwayne’s care, three children, and Dwayne’s unemployability.

The VA claims process continued over years and Jeanette began advocating for Dwayne by contacting numerous lawmakers and even wrote a letter to President Obama. After 12 years, Dwayne was granted his service-connection status. To provide the care he needed, it became necessary for Jeanette to resign from her employment to care for Dwayne.

She now assists Dwayne with his daily living tasks and ensures that he continues to have a good quality of life. She helps him with all his exercises and therapies, manages his healthcare, and drives him to two or three appointments every day. Jeanette helps Dwayne stay active through participation in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and visiting a center once a week where he can interact with other veterans.

Jeanette pursued a master's degree in human services counseling: family advocacy and public policy while caring for her husband. She sought to gain more insight and access to resources and assistance for veterans, caregivers, the disabled, and their families. As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, she is excited to be an advocate with solutions for the problems of caregivers and hopes to empower and strengthen the lives of our brave veterans and those who love and support them.