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

Jeannette Davidson Mayer

We have an ever changing daily new normal.

What was one of the first major challenges you faced as a military caregiver?

I had to learn how to run the household and manage the budget. My husband, DeWayne, had bounced some checks and mishandled our finances, so I had to right the ship. I asked for help from a friend who worked at a bank and took an online course to understand how to handle our spending.

What are some of your current challenges and how do you address them?

We have an ever changing daily new normal. For example, we have two styles of cereal bowls in our house, and recently my husband experienced a meltdown because he didn’t have the right bowl. He’s broken three washing machines in five years. But I find strength in taking care of myself: I go to the gym five days a week, go to church and counseling, and find time to drink wine and hike with friends.

What do you think is the biggest misconception civilians have about your situation?

People think that I have a lot of time to do stuff because I’m a stay at home mom, without understanding how time consuming my responsibilities are. They also don’t think about how it affects children. My daughter has matured a lot quicker, as she was six when my husband returned from Iraq. Due to his doctor appointments, she’s spent a lot of time with babysitters, aunts, and our church family.

My Story

Jeannette believes that her husband DeWayne used five of his nine lives, so to speak, while serving in combat in Iraq. His experiences resulted in severe nasal and cervical spine injuries, which required multiple surgeries. But, Jeannette soon noticed that he wasn’t functioning like his old self. She began a slow transition into developing a caregiver strategy to support her husband’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), turning their kitchen into a “central command post” to support DeWayne’s struggle for independence and plan for his success.

In her role as a Dole Fellow, Jeannette shares her knowledge and experiences with other military families to help them keep moving forward, and encourage them to create their own central command post that defines and strengthens their family dynamic.