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

Nicole James

I’ve learned that there will be ups and downs, but you just pull through.

How has being a military caregiver changed you?

Being a military caregiver has made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am naturally shy and it took me a while to get used to talking to different doctors and asking the questions that needed to be asked. I’ve also learned what’s important in life.

What do you think is the biggest misconception civilians have about military caregivers and veteran families?

Sometimes people assume that if we just go out and get a job, everything would just get better. It is irritating for people to not understand that my husband’s invisible wounds exist.

What was your first major challenge as a military caregiver?

I had a very difficult time understanding what upset my husband. With experience, I’ve become much better at anticipating my husband’s trigger warnings.

My Story

Nicole's husband, Jesse, served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan where he was exposed to several improvised explosive device (IED) explosions that left him with physical and psychological injuries. His cumulative injuries caused significant damage and in 2012, he was medically retired from the Marine Corps. Nicole makes sure that he continues his ongoing treatments, assists him with his memory loss, occasional mobility issues, monitors medications, maintains records, and provides emotional support. With Jesse, Nicole is also a parent to their four children.

As a Dole Fellow, she helps other spouses navigate and balance their changing lives as they take on the role of caregiver.