1. Spouses to wounded veterans receive ample financial support from the government.
For decades, caregivers were given virtually no support in addition to their spouses' benefits. After a long legislative struggle, in 2013 the Department of Veterans Affairs began to officially recognize, train, and pay small stipends to family caregivers. But many wives and husbands to injured warriors do not receive or even know about these benefits. Others have recently had their benefits yanked with no explanation.
2. Injured servicepeople have constant health care, and their spouses can focus on their careers and raising their families.
Depending on the type and severity of injury, many spouses are forced to quit their jobs to care for their wounded warriors full-time. A report from The Rand Corporation states, "They provide care and assistance, promoting faster recovery for their loved ones and thus saving our nation millions of dollars in health care costs. However, the personal impact of providing this care is enormous. The time required can result in lost jobs, lost wages, and a possible loss of health insurance; in addition, the physical and emotional toll can be substantial."
3. Wives and husbands of wounded warriors are supported by their communities.
Of course, this will vary from family to family. But many of the women I interviewed for Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife reported that friends and even family members pushed them away. One told me she was asked not to bring her wounded husband to his best friend's deployment party; the other wives worried that their children would be too frightened by seeing a disabled warrior.
4. Wounded warriors' spouses can handle anything.
Now, don't get me wrong: I've interviewed hundreds of wives of wounded warriors, and they are tough as nails. But that doesn't mean they aren't exhausted by their lives and overwhelmed by their duties. It doesn't mean they're aware of the resources available to them, or that they are able to take advantage of those resources. And it certainly doesn't mean that they're able to shoulder their burdens entirely alone.
So what can we do to support these heroes in the shadows? Offer to listen, and ask how we can be helpful to them and lighten their loads. Donate to organizations that offer resources and training to veterans' spouses. And if we can do nothing else, acknowledge their sacrifices and honor their struggles.
When Veterans' Day rolls around, I hope you'll think first of our valiant servicemembers, and then of the brave spouses supporting, caring for, and loving them every single day.