J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant

Rethinking ‘independence’ this Fourth of July

As we look to the celebration of  another Fourth of July, I can’t help but feel lucky that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Together, we’ll honor the birth of our nation with flags and fireworks, and we’ll show our gratitude for America’s independence.

The feeling of patriotism we embrace on Independence Day makes me tremendously proud to be a citizen of this country, and it also calls to mind the many sacrifices made in the brutal war for this nation’s sovereignty.

But as I stop to think of all the conflicts that have been fought by American men and women throughout our history—particularly all those who have been critically injured in service—I can’t help but also think about the nation’s veteran caregivers.

Caregivers help fill many gaps in a veteran’s life. Sometimes they serve as the arms or legs for an amputee, the eyes for a blinded veteran or the memory for someone who struggles with a brain injury. By filling one of the most vital roles in disabled veterans’ lives, caregivers provide far more than just physical and emotional support; oftentimes, they provide the veteran with a sense of independence.

It can be all too easy to take for granted mobility and functionality when you have not sustained severe impairments, but it’s common for seriously injured veterans to feel robbed of their independence as they learn to cope with their “new normal.”

In my time with DAV, I have been inspired by many veterans who completely turned their lives around, enduring both intense physical pain and emotional despair as they fought through arduous recovery processes. Many of the most critically injured veterans I’ve met have gone on to raise families, graduate with advanced degrees, lead successful businesses and even fight for the rights of their fellow veterans. I’ve seen double-arm amputees play golf, blinded veterans ski down mountains and those in wheelchairs scale the tops of rock walls.

In so many of these instances, I’ve also noticed a dedicated family caregiver standing by their veterans’ sides cheering them on.

There’s no question that veterans have to harness their inner spirit, grit their teeth, and struggle through the tough times in order to achieve their goals. But it’s often caregivers who help enable veterans to live life to the fullest, who prepare them physically to meet the challenges ahead and who continue to encourage them when the path seems bleak.

Independence means so much to the men and women who live their lives relying on others for assistance. This Fourth of July, as we pay tribute to our country and all those who have helped keep it safe and free, it’s worth remembering that there are men and women out there who have served and sacrificed in a much different but no less important way—family caregivers, who have helped make independence a reality for our nation’s disabled veterans.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.