A Caregiver's Smile


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“How much more can we bear? Even More! I would do it again.. and again”

The family of an Air National Guardsman came to the Wounded Veteran Family Care Program facing challenges as a result of the veteran’s debilitating illness from his burn pit exposure in Iraq in 2005. The family was forced to fight an uphill battle for the veteran’s VA disability compensation after his return home. The lengthy process for securing the veteran’s benefits, while facing multiple medical crises, lasted for years and financially devastated the family.

The veteran shared his story with us:

“I remember when the back of the plane opened up, they said put your head down and run to the terminal on the flight line. But as I was running, I could smell and taste this terrible funk. Well, after getting checked in, I realized that this black smoke and flume was hanging right over the base. So, we asked and they said, ‘oh that is just the burn pits.’

I wish I had my life back before I went to fight for our country. My life consists of doctor appointments and a sack full of medications, 40 pills every morning and night. I wish I would just feel normal and not hurt all the time, but if you ask me, I would do it again and my answer would be yes because that’s what we do.” (Signed) The American Soldier

The caregiver of this brave Airman gave her all to ensure that her loved one was receiving the proper treatment. Bills piled up as they dealt with his illness and waited for compensation. The caregiver neglected her own health and dental needs. After four years of neglect, the caregiver’s dental treatment needs were so significant that dental insurance would not make a dent in the cost of her needed dental work. The family could not afford the out of pocket expense as they were still struggling to fix the financial devastation that followed waiting for the veteran’s benefits.

Caregivers often negate their own personal needs as they struggle to balance the demands of caregiving, managing a household, and taking care of other family members.

Many caregivers have come to us with unmet dental healthcare needs. Most caregivers have simply endured the pain and embarrassment of dental decay and “soldiered on” with life because they see the very real need of maintaining good dental health as a want and not a need. In the face of a veteran’s need for treatment and paying household bills, caregivers place their needs last and neglect their own health, as this caregiver had done.

Fortunately, for this caregiver, the Wounded Veteran Family Care Program found a local dentist who offered to provide over $16,000 in pro bono services to the caregiver because of her family’s sacrifice and service to the country. The caregiver was overjoyed that she felt comfortable smiling in public without being embarrassed by the state of her teeth.

Although we could not take away the veteran’s daily physical pain or the emotional hurt of the family’s circumstances, the Quality of Life Foundation was able to significantly improve the caregiver’s quality of life and remind her that she matters too.


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