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

Sarah Martinez

Being a military caregiver has made me more aware that I need help, that I can accept help, and that I can trust other people.

What was one of the first major challenges you faced as a military caregiver?

It was difficult to conceive that my husband was no longer able-bodied. I had never known anyone who was permanently disabled, so I had never considered doors not being wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or the difficulties of transferring a person to a bed or a sofa. Even though he now has prosthetics, it is still hard caring for someone who is reminded of what happened to him with literally every step he takes.

How has being a military caregiver changed you?

Being a military caregiver has made me more aware that I need help, that I can accept help, and that I can trust other people. My friendships are so much stronger because of it. During the most trying time in my marriage, I tried not to share the details with any of my friends. I finally realized that unless I trusted these people with the truths of my life, we weren’t as close or as good friends as I believed.

What does being a military caregiver mean to you?

A military caregiver is someone who has to give up a portion of his or her life. I had to postpone and change my plans. When Saul was injured, I was in my final semester of college, but I had to drop out to care for him. It took me seven years to complete my degree. Even now, I wish I could start graduate school right away, but I put a bit of myself on the back burner for the sake of our family.

My Story

Sarah's husband, Saul, was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in 2007. His wounds include traumatic brain injury (TBI), massive tissue loss, and bilateral leg amputations. Eventually, he received prosthetics and learned how to walk again. In addition to caring for her husband, Sarah and Saul have two small children. She recently finished her bachelor’s degree in community help and wants to return for a master’s in marriage and family therapy.

As a Dole Fellow, Sarah uses her visibility to advocate for issues that caregivers face daily, such as stress management, respite care, and personal growth.