By Megan Way | Photos by Lawrence Oravetz
“When you fly on an airplane, flight attendants instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping the person seated next to you. Why? Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else.”
On April 27th, the VA partnered with Hidden Heroes to invites veteran caregivers to put your oxygen mask on first and join them for a day of respite and self-care. The theme of helping yourself first to help others echoes throughout this whole event. The day featured self-care focused activities, special guest speakers and time to connect with the local Las Vegas community of caregivers. More than 100 people attended the event including a handful of non-locals.
The program began with the presenting of the colors by the American Legion Post 76 Color Guard and the national anthem sung by a highschooler from a local choir group. Eva Secchiari, President and founder of Veterans Life Services welcomed everyone and then gave the podium to the guest speakers this year; Ms. Jennifer Mackinday co-author of Friends for Life, Mrs. Shawn Moore and Mrs. Debbie Sprague, author of A Stranger in my bed.
While guests were enjoying breakfast, guest speaker Ms. Jennifer Mackinday shared her story on her life being a caregiver for her brother and before she started caring for her own happiness, “I did what a lot of you probably did when you got that call or when your service member came home, I quit my job and immersed myself into all things caregiving.”
Caregiving was more than just learning about all the types of therapy though, “I found myself tolerating people who were pushing me, people who felt like they could be nosy about our family, about our situation, about my brother’s healthcare. I tolerated people who didn’t respect me as his caregiver and as the person who’s stood by him his whole life no matter what. I allowed those people to weigh on our lives in a way I didn’t quite understand at the time, but I now know, was bad for both of us.”
The donors who brought this event free for military and veteran caregivers were Monster Energy, Operation Gratitude, The Independence Fund, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, American National, TBI Warrior Foundation and The Wounded Warrior Project.