Being Erich’s caregiver means that I have an opportunity to not only care for and love him, but learn for and from him.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
My life has changed in the sense that my priorities have had to shift. I was a paramedic. I chose being a caregiver as a profession and then again, without intention, in my home life. I had to resign from the job I loved and move away from my support for a better quality of life for him, and in turn, me. I needed to put my desires of being a mother on hold to help him feel whole, capable and worthy being a father to our child. Being Erich’s caregiver means that I have an opportunity to not only care for and love him, but learn for and from him.
What does being a military caregiver mean to you?
Being a military caregiver means I am an advocate for not only my veteran, but all veterans. It means that I ensure that he is getting the care he needs and deserves, and is not forgotten or left to slip through the cracks. It means that he will never be abandoned or become a statistic. It means that I will shoulder the household burdens so he doesn’t have to. It means that I will not only run and organize his life, managing appointments, medications, tempers, triggers, moods, but I must take care of myself as well. It means having the patience and perseverance to hold on through the roughest of days, and to being present in the best of days.
What is the most significant lesson you have learned from being a caregiver?
Over and over, I’ve had to learn patience, understanding and most of all forgiveness. While I haven’t mastered the forgiveness, I have found my fight and ability to not give up on him and us.
Jessica's fiancé Erich served as an infantryman in the US Marine Corps. He deployed to Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and responded to the USS Cole bombing. Erich has battled post traumatic stress and suffers from back, knee, and feet pain. It took Jessica years to convince him that he was deserving of help. She began her journey with him, then to find resources and services that could help him find himself again.
Jessica began her caregiver journey early in life, caring for her mother before she passed away when Jessica was 15. She feels like she has always had the desire to help, fix, and assist the people around her. She served six years in the US Air Force and has served in a professional caregiver capacity as a paramedic for almost 10 years. Now, she serves fellow veterans, advocating for their needs. Being a caregiver has pushed Jessica's patience to its limits as much as it has healed her heart. Jessica and Erich moved to Hawaii a few years ago to find peace and to heal. As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, she works within her community to reach out to caregivers across their state. She hopes to become more active with some of their state leadership to bring awareness and change to veteran families. Jessica's goal is help each veteran, caregiver, and affected family members find healing and growth, and promote a better way of life for each of them.