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

Maria Baca

Either live that way or fix it.

What was one of your first major problems as a caregiver?

My husband began to question himself after initially receiving treatment. He began to self medicate to mask the pain and symptoms he was suffering. His self-esteem hit an all-time low and at that point, I could not reach him. I left him in the hospital and told him that I would return when he was ready to ask for help. He decided to reach out for help and turn his life around.

What advice would you give to a new military caregiver?

I give the same advice that I would give on someone’s wedding day: put your trust and faith in God. There will not always be money, but there will be love, underneath all the problems.

How has being a military caregiver changed you?

Being a military caregiver has made me a stronger individual. I’ve learned to rely on myself. I’ve also learned to take joyful experiences where and when they come. I love spending time with my husband, my family and my friends, and meeting new people.

My Story

Maria cares for her husband, Jessey, who served in the New Mexico Air National Guard for 37 years. He was then diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, a terminal lung disease, chemically-induced asthma, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain lesions, and other ailments that have been attributed to exposure to open air “burn pits” while serving in Balad, Iraq. Together, they worked with Senator Tom Udall to create the Burn Pit Registry.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Maria is committed to spreading the word about burn pit injuries, and to empowering caregivers to organize politically for themselves and for their veterans.