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

Jenn Paulson

You are never alone! There are so many ways to stay connected so you don’t feel isolated.

What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?

Being responsible for the mental and medical decisions for my husband. Also, educating others on topics they may not be aware of which affect veterans, their caregivers and families.

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

When my husband was home on leave in 2009, he had an intense nightmare. He bolted from the bedroom yelling, “INCOMING!” with his hands covering his head and laid down flat on the living room floor. It took a while for me to explain he was home and safely get him to bed.

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

You are never alone! There are so many ways to stay connected so you don’t feel isolated.

My Story

Jenn Paulson’s life in Northeastern Minnesota is a balancing act of caring for her husband Keith full time and raising their four grandchildren, whom they recently adopted. The couple also has five adult children, now out of the house.

Keith served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and then joined the Minnesota National Guard where he deployed to Iraq in 2009 as a mechanic. While deployed, he sustained a complex shoulder injury, hearing loss, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compounded by severe anxiety.

On a regular day, Jenn assists Keith with dressing, ambulation, pain control, mediating anxiety attacks, and taking care of chores, transportation, appointments, and errands.

Their lives changed substantially after adopting their four grandchildren, and Jenn is extremely proud of the way Keith has adapted to having young kids in the home again. "We call it our second rodeo," Jenn says. "We are beyond blessed to give these kiddos a future they deserve."

While caring for Keith, Jenn was involved with her husband’s Army National Guard unit. She became the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader, a volunteer position that works with a team to provide activities and resources for the unit’s soldiers and their families. For her service, Jenn received a Presidential Service Award in 2011, for which she credits the entire FRG team.

Through organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network, the local American Legion, and Elks Lodge, Jenn and Keith have found people and places where they both feel comfortable and supported.

To give back, Jenn wants to empower others in the same way she has been helped. As part of that goal, Jenn and her family recently acquired property and are working toward opening a retreat center focused on providing caregivers essential respite, connection, and empowerment opportunities.