Behind the scenes: Caregiver Support Program Published Sept. 4, 2018 By Alexx Pons Air Force Wounded Warrior Program JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior CARE Event came to a close with the closing celebration held at Soldiers Field House, Aug. 30; however, caregivers and warriors came together for one final event, Aug. 31. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Caregiver Support Program works directly with the Recovery Care Team, Peer Support Coordinators, Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program, and Airman & Family Readiness Center staff to ensure support services are provided based on individual and family needs. “This Caregiver Symposium was asked for by our warriors and their caregivers; it serves as a way for caregivers to come together with warriors and truly share in this journey of recovery and healing,” said Tanya McGough, AFW2 Caregiver Support Program manager. “Here, our caregivers are able to bond not just with their warriors, but with fellow caregivers and their warriors... creating a wider support network, and in a sense, family of support.” The program also connects caregivers, establishes networks and provides coping tools that will help caregivers learn, grow, and develop in fulfilling ways. It is built on the idea of caregivers taking care of caregivers. Over the course of the week, caregivers are armed with resiliency tools geared toward helping them cope with what their warriors are going through, as well as positive tools and resources for themselves to avoid burnout from the toll their role can take on them. “I think our caregivers often forget to care for themselves in the process of providing critical care and support for their warriors,” McGough said. “Here, they are able to connect and bond with people walking similar journeys so when they leave, they have touch points - mentors, friends, and resources to lean on should the need arise.” “The communication and sharing experiences here have been incredible; these caregivers now know they are not alone,” she continued. “Most will tell you this was their first time, attending one of our CARE events, but are leaving feeling whole.” Caregivers also leave as program ambassadors and aid AFW2 with getting the word out about benefits of attending an event, while also encouraging people to attend who may need the program. “These caregivers are our unsung heroes... I tell all of them that the mirror of my heart is the reflection that I see; my reflection shines within you and within me,” McGough said. “All of that to say, we see you. While things may be going wrong and you may not have an outlet, AFW2 sees you; what we do reflects on our caregivers and warriors. “We are changing and saving lives here; regardless of what has happened, we hope to give our caregivers new experiences here and be by their side through struggle and hardship,” she continued. “The incredibly unselfish sacrifices made by caregivers for their warriors; the sleepless nights and feelings of isolation... we want them to know that through faith, love, compassion and understanding, you can and you will make it through.” For more information about the AFW2 program, visit their official website. Additionally, be sure to like their Facebook page for program updates, upcoming events and the latest news. Editor’s note: The next CARE event (following JBLM) will be held at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, this November.