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

Julie Guleff

'To care for him who shall have borne the battle.’ I wish that if I was a veteran in need, someone would uphold those words for me.

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

First, with my father who served, and then with my husband. Both had difficulties and issues with getting care and when their voices were not heard, I stepped in and picked up the fight for them. I was the one to step up when no one else would.

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

Being a military caregiver is a source of pride to defend and care for those who gave so much for our country and our people. The VA motto “To care for him who shall borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” is engraved in stone and in every VA facility. I take that to heart and it is the least I can do to repay those who fought for our freedom. It is an enormous source of pride that I should be able to contribute.

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

I had to pick up myself and my two then high school-age boys, moving us from New York to Florida to care for my veteran father. When I met my husband, Steve, I took over his care. I had to quit my job as his care required full-time work and took precedent over a job. My job as his wife and caregiver is the sole focus of every day. Caregiving will always come first.

My Story

Early on as a military caregiver, Julie was instrumental in navigating the VA’s healthcare system and ensuring care for her father, an Army veteran. Frequently, she traveled back and forth between upstate New York and Florida to care for her parents. When her father passed away in 2004, she and her two sons, then in high school, uprooted their lives to Florida to care for Julie’s mother. Julie’s caregiving journey continued when she met her husband Steve, a Vietnam veteran, in 2005.

Having cared for her father, Julie quickly noticed Steve was struggling with issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Steve never used any of the VA’s services because he felt they weren’t “for him,” but for those who really needed the help. After some convincing, Julie compelled Steve to get the services he needed, and she became his caregiver.

Five years later, Steve’s health began to rapidly decline, and he was diagnosed with prostate disease and other complications related to Agent Orange exposure. Julie had to quit her job to provide 24/7 care. She helps Steve with daily activities, scheduling appointments, and managing medications.

One of Julie’s most empowering moments as a caregiver was when she successfully encouraged her local Congressman to step in and help secure services her husband desperately needed. Managing Steve’s care has been a relentless fight, but it has given her lessons to share with other caregivers. And no matter how hard it gets, Julie is motivated by her belief that those who fought for our country deserve all the care and support they need, and more.