Taking care of a wounded veteran is one of the most important services a nonprofit or government agency can render, but these organizations aren't there with patients 24/7. In the end, a great deal of care is provided by caregivers, often spouses or other family members of the injured service members. Taking a moment to recognize the people who care for injured vets is important, as these contributions are too vital to go unnoticed.

Partners learn to help
Wisconsin Public Radio recently spotlighted Barbara McNally, author of a guide that gives knowledge and support to the spouses of wounded vets. McNally explained that witnessing a veteran's tragic suicide galvanized her to write the book. She explained that returning from active duty with a serious wound can be a surprising trauma, one that both the injured parties and those closest to them feel unable to handle or cope with. By giving out common-sense information, she hopes to help improve these situations.

Military spouses can have a huge positive impact on their wounded partners, and McNally wants to be sure they meet this potential. She recounted the story of a vet afflicted with severe depression. The vet's wife introduced him to a fly fishing program meant for military members. Husband and wife participated together, and he managed to reconnect with the world, via an activity he loved, and communication with other vets in the program. By knowing him well enough, the vet's wife put him on a track back to normalcy.

"A young couple coping with a severe wound may be blindsided by the strain."

In addition to having a lack of experience dealing with mental or physical injuries, many veterans' caregivers are very young. McNally noted that there are 5 million caregivers helping veterans in the country today, and 20 percent of them are under 30. A young couple coping with a severe wound may be blindsided by the strain, but with the right mindset and some knowledge, they can persevere.

Treating vet caregivers
Some organizations aimed at helping vets make a point of acknowledging the vital role caregivers play in helping injured warriors re-integrate with the civilian world. Events planned to salute the troops or give out free services can increase their scope to caregivers. WHNT pointed out one such program in Huntsville, Alabama, in which the Salon Professional Academy gave out free beauty care to women who are either veterans or caregivers. The salon closed to the public and served 16 caretakers and two vets, giving makeovers ahead of the Marine Corps Ball.

Marine veteran Lori Martin explained to WHNT that the beauty care proved to be a helpful bonding experience for the vets and wives. Considering the vital role caregivers play in helping wounded vets – and the amount of effort it can take to step into that time-consuming position, it's heartening to see caretakers honored alongside veterans in promotions, giveaways and other events dedicated to saluting the military. While there are many great programs that provide assistance for wounded vets, spouses and other family members are still the backbone of the support system upon their return from service.