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

Jessica Montgomery

Being a military caregiver is promising to bridge any gap, climb any mountain, and fight any battle necessary to insure the care of our nation’s heroes.

What are the most significant lessons you have learned since becoming a caregiver?

Trust your gut, and then fight for it if you have to. I realized that I know my veteran better than anyone, and I know when something is not right. It took a few years to find the courage to voice my opinion, and fire that says keep saying it until it is heard. Nobody is going to fight for my husband like I am, and it’s up to me to make sure he doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Can you describe a milestone or moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?

I’m empowered and inspired by other caregivers who are brave enough to share their story. A lot of our stories are difficult, but they need to be told. I have many caregiver friends that I have met over the years. These are women I have laughed, cried, and grown with over the years. Seeing them have the courage to stand before people in our nation’s capital and share their struggles, to give all caregivers who feel invisible a voice, spreads a contagious fire of inspiration and empowerment to all who cheer them on from home.

Has another caregiver been helpful to you? If so, how?

I cannot even begin to count all of the caregivers who have walked this journey with me. Through groups like Hearts of Valor, online peer support groups, and mutual friends, I have connected with so many caregivers I am now proud to call my friends. I have my go-to people when things start falling apart. Many of my most treasured friends are those who welcomed me and walked with me as I learned to navigate the caregiver world.

My Story

Jessica's husband, Will, was a combat medic during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2007 surge. It wasn’t until months after returning home, that symptoms from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) began to surface.  By that time, they were already back home in Texas, far removed from the military community. He struggled with anger, nightmares, very little sleep, and daily pain from his neck and back injuries. Unfortunately, he was one of the many veterans who kept falling through the cracks at the VA. It wasn’t until 2012, when Jessica learned more about PTSD and TBIs that she even realized what they were up against. It was then Jessica realized that she, too, was a caregiver, and it was up to her to make sure he wasn’t forgotten.

Jessica's goal as a Dole Fellow is to shed some light on the gaps they’ve faced while advocating for his treatment at the VA. Some veterans face horrendous wait times when they are in crisis and try to seek treatment at inpatient programs. Veterans and their families need more support when in crisis.