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

Joseph Narvaez

Being a veteran caregiver means I am making a difference in someone’s life.

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

Things can change daily when caregiving. Just keep trying different methods to engage with your care recipient. Show that you care and understand what they are going through with much love. Also, do something yourself daily if you can.

What is a quote that inspires you or keeps you motivated?

“Ancora Imparo” is an Italian phrase meaning, “Still, I am learning.”

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

I realize my time is not my own anymore. I must be flexible as different situations present themselves. I am no longer employed full-time; instead, my day is devoted to caring and guiding my daughter and grandson.

My Story

Joe Narvaez was contracted as a travel director for Fortune 500 companies in 2001, when his daughter Laura told him that she wanted to join the U.S. Air Force. He was initially skeptical of the idea of Laura serving, but he eventually understood her decision and became her biggest champion. 

Laura served in Operational Intelligence with the Special Operations Command and, at times, was embedded with the Army and supported collection on the ground in combat zones. Laura suffered multiple types of injuries as a result of her service. During deployment in 2006, an improvised explosive device caused her to suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which led to anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She was also diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy, a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage everyday body functions. These functions include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder control, and digestion. 

Unfortunately, this was not the only difficulty that Laura would face. A few months later while stationed in South Korea, she was attacked by a fellow service member and suffered sexual trauma. She medically retired in 2008, leaving the service with multiple chronic injuries and the need for a full-time caregiver. 

When she returned stateside, Joe was there to pick her up. At the time of her discharge, however, Joe was not considered Laura’s caregiver. Instead, it was Laura’s high school sweetheart and husband who also served in Special Operations in the Air Force and had deployed to combat zones six times over 10 years. Joe was not aware that Laura’s husband, who was supposed to be her caregiver, was struggling and in need of care himself. In 2016, a year and a half after their son’s first birthday, Laura’s husband had a PTSD episode that ended his life. 

Joe immediately stepped in as Laura’s caregiver and stopped working to devote all his time to nurturing her so she could reach where she is today. Joe lives near Laura and her new husband and looks after her son daily. He continues to help around the house and go to medical appointments with her. Joe goes out of his way to care for his daughter; to be there for her through all the devastation Laura has experienced. His love is so strong for his family. He not only cares for his daughter, but also his 90+-year-old mother who he sees daily, while helping to raise his grandson. Joe also attends caregiver meetings at the VA, connecting with other veterans in the hopes of being a support for those in need. Now that he has been a caregiver himself, he believes he can help others navigate their caregiver journey.