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

Tera Sanderson

Being a caregiver means the same things as being a wife: above all else, love over anger.

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

I didn’t know that I was caregiver until one year ago, when another caregiver explained to me that I was. Before then, I didn’t realize there was a designation or name for what I am or do. I just assumed that this was normal and expected when your spouse is injured.

What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?

I am excited to represent and bring awareness to caregivers, their care recipients, and their families. I look forward to spreading awareness and bringing about more understanding of our unique lives. I hope to help continue building bridges within our communities so that we can find support and strength whenever it is needed.

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

It’s hard to say that my life has “changed,” because my husband was injured before we met. I’ve always been his caregiver whether I knew it or not. For that reason, I think the biggest sacrifice I’ve made, was giving up the idealized version of what our marriage and life would be like.

My Story

Tera Sanderson of Las Vegas, Nevada is a military caregiver to her husband, Albert. When they married in 2009, she was unaware of the injuries her husband had sustained during his Air Force career. She also did not realize she was her husband’s caregiver until someone explained the role to her.

Before Tera and Albert met, he deployed four times between 2003 and 2006, and deployed a final time after they were married in 2011. Like many veterans, Albert was able to hide his injuries until post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a cervical spine injury were diagnosed in 2013. While going through the medical board process, Tera felt lost and uncertain because Albert could not communicate what he was being told, and she ultimately had to turn to Albert’s Command to learn how to support him. Tera also began to struggle with her own mental health and suffered from secondary trauma.

As Albert’s caregiver and a mother to their four children, Tera ensures the well-being of her family regardless of the unforeseen challenges. She manages all the family finances and household duties, ensures their four children have everything they need, reminds Albert of his appointments and medications, assists with other daily activities, and provides emotional support.

Tera is a regular member of the monthly empowerment circles conducted by the city of Las Vegas through the Hidden Heroes Cities program. She also enjoys visits to museums, hiking with her family, and crafting.

As a Dole Fellow, Tera hopes to advocate for mental health awareness for caregivers.