Press Release

THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES HONORS MILITARY CAREGIVERS

The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services Honors Military Caregivers in Partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundations’ Hidden Heroes Campaign in honor of Military Appreciation Month with screening of the documentary “American Veteran” at The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum.

May 19, 2017

New York - The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Campaign, hosted a documentary screening and panel discussion on Monday, May 15th, 2017 at the Intrepid Air & Sea Museum in honor of National Military Appreciation Month, highlighting the role of military caregivers. Panelists included Tina Atherall of Blue Star Families, and four military caregivers: Molly Pearl, Isa Rosenbloom, Major Sharon Sweeting-Lindsey, US Army Reserve (Ret.), and Sonia Yulfo. As part of DVS’ VetsThriveNYC initiative, a component of the First Lady Chirlaine McCray’s pioneering Thrive NYC Mental Health Roadmap, this event raised awareness about the critical importance of networks of support for military service members and veterans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "Families and caregivers are at the heart of a path to healing, happiness, and long-term success for our brave veterans. I join the Department of Veterans’ Services in honoring and thanking those who care for the many heroes who sacrificed for our freedom."

Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General, US Army (Ret.), Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services called the event, “An essential recognition that families serve too. Military caregivers serve their nation in providing for those who have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow citizens. In this way, military caregivers embody the cycle of service of all military families – the soldiers who serve, and the families who serve alongside them, both in their support when they’re deployed and in their care when they return home. We at DVS are so proud to partner with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Campaign and are so grateful to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum for joining our efforts in honoring the incredible work and sacrifice of military caregivers.”

Darlene Brown-Williams, PhD, Assistant Commissioner for Whole Health & Community Resilience at the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services said, “The path to healing and wholeness for anyone, especially veterans, includes being an integrated, connected part of a larger community of support. Very often that community of support starts with the family. Military caregivers in particular face especially challenging circumstances, both caring for their loved ones but also often doing so anonymously. We are thrilled to be able to highlight the critical role that families play in advocating for and supporting our veterans.”

Steve Schwab, Executive Director, Elizabeth Dole Foundation, said, “There are more than 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers in the United States. Across the nation, spouses, parents, friends and other loved ones transform their lives to provide daily, essential care for those who cared for us. As a country, we must come together to find helpful ways to support these Hidden Heroes in their life-long journey of care. Events like May 15th’s screening and panel discussion, featuring Dole Caregiver Fellow, Sonia Yulfo, bring new attention to the challenges facing this often overlooked community. We’re thrilled such an exciting evening could also serve as a launch for New York City’s induction as a Hidden Heroes City—joining a growing nationwide network of cities and counties dedicated to identifying local military and veteran caregivers and increasing awareness and support for them. It’s an honor to work alongside the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services to bring vital resources to local military caregivers throughout their journey of care.”

Susan Marenoff-Zausner, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, remarked, "There is no greater way to honor the men and women who have so bravely fought for our country than to care for them when they return from service. Nearly six million Americans are considered military caregivers, and we are honored to join the New York City Department of Veterans' Services and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in celebrating the strength, dedication and sacrifice of the often unsung heroes who play the critical role of taking care of our veterans."

Todd Haskins, Chair of the New York City Veterans Advisory Board, said, “Families are critical to the success of the US military and unfortunately are called upon too often to continue their services as caregivers once their partner leaves the service and becomes a veteran.  They are often the Hidden Heroes who rarely receive appropriate recognition for the critical role that they play. The VAB are so proud that New York City through the Department of Veteran Services has partnered with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to help them receive the recognition and support that they so clearly deserve.”

Tina Atherall, LMSW, Regional Director Blue Star Families, said, “It is all about the family at Blue Star Families. The role of the military caregiver is a critical one, filled with both encouraging and challenging moments.  We are honored to be a part of a city family with the Department of Veteran Services, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and so many others in this region. Working together we can create powerful connections for our military caregivers when often isolation is a tremendous problem. We hear you, we see you, and we are stronger together”

“Caregivers play a vital role in the lives of wounded veterans,” Wounded Warrior Project® CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington said. “When we championed legislation in 2010 to create the caregiver program, we saw it as a way to provide crucial assistance. Now we will work with VA to ensure it continues to help. Wounded Warrior Project is proud to collaborate with other organizations like New York City Department of Veterans’ Services to continue providing support.”

Sherman Gillums Jr., Executive Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America, said, “To our country’s credit, we now recognize the service and sacrifice of caregivers who bear the burden of helping severely wounded veterans find some semblance of quality of life. The passage of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend services to caregivers of veterans who served during the post-9/11 era. (But) it should not matter whether a caregiver is helping a veteran who left a piece of him or herself in the mountains of Afghanistan or jungles of Vietnam. Now that our country has set a standard for what caring for caregivers entails, it’s time to ensure that no caregiver is left to deal with the invisible costs of war alone.”

Vu Nguyen from The Mission Continues said, “We empower veterans to continue service here in NYC. We've found that service and leadership in the community is an effective reintegration strategy for veterans and the help provided by caregivers makes it possible. We are thrilled that The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are joining forces to highlight the selfless and extraordinary sacrifice caregivers provide to our nations bravest men and women in honor of National Military Appreciation Month.” 

ABOUT AMERICAN VETERAN

American Veteran is a feature-length documentary telling the story of Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a massive improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, when he was 21. The film follows Nick through the five year period after his injury — from the V.A. hospital bed where he spent 7 months recovering and learning to eat and even breathe on his own again, to the fully accessible home where he now lives with his new wife Wendy, a medical caregiver he met in the hospital. Presented in an unflinching, close-up style, the film brings us into Nick’s world as he studies for a real estate license and learns to do everything from posting on Facebook and playing video games to casting a fishing reel with his mouth. It follows Nick as he endures an awkward Veterans Day parade and as he reunites with the soldier who pulled him from the truck just after it blew up.  It also trace the unlikely love story of Nick and Wendy as they develop a deep emotional and physical connection neither could have imagined. The film weaves together Nick’s past and present to show a nuanced portrait of a quadriplegic soldier’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes romantic and often surprisingly funny life.

ABOUT HIDDEN HEROES

Hidden Heroes brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seeks solutions for the tremendous challenges and long-term needs they face. Our goals are to: Raise awareness of the issues military caregivers confront every day; Inspire individuals, businesses, communities, and civic, faith and government leaders to take action in supporting military caregivers in their communities, and; Establish a national registry, encouraging military caregivers to register at HiddenHeroes.org to better connect them to helpful resources and support.

ABOUT VETSTHRIVENYC & THE CORE4 WHOLE HEALTH MODELTM

DVS is committed to connecting veterans with opportunities to connect, to heal, to grow, and to thrive. Veterans and their families don’t come home to military installations; they come home to communities. Thus, communities have an integral role to play in how successfully veterans transition to civilian life. DVS connects veterans and their families to their communities through what we call the VetsThriveNYC Core 4 Whole Health ModelTM.

The model is a pyramid with four tiers. The largest, bottom tier is Culture: arts programs geared towards veterans’ experiences. The next tier up is Connection: establishing ties with peers. Third is Community: linking veterans with holistic services within their communities. And at the very tip is Clinical care: connecting veterans to help in clinical environments.

This model recognizes the high cost and stigma of clinical mental health care, and thus focuses on non- clinical ways for veterans and their families to thrive in their civilian communities. Through Core 4, DVS addresses not only the physical health of our veterans, but the full impact of war — mental, physical, and emotional.

ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES (DVS)

The New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) strives to improve the lives of all veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status. DVS is not a direct services agency, but rather a centralized hub able to put veterans at the center of all our efforts. We coordinate services with a range of agencies at the City, state, and federal level, as well as through public-private partnerships. 

Our mission is straightforward: to foster purpose-driven lives for NYC service members, veterans, and their families through: effective connections with the NYC community; targeted advocacy at the local, state, and national level; compassionate service, ensuring we make it easier to access services and benefits they’ve earned. We believe veterans are civic assets whose strength and demonstrated commitment to public service help NYC thrive.

For more information on the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, please visit our website at www.nyc.gov/vets, visit us at 1 Centre Street, Suite 2208, New York, NY, call 212-416-5250, or follow us on social media @nycveterans.

Contact: press@veterans.nyc.gov, 212-416-5250