Visionary Award Nominee: Shawn Moore

Denise

Visionary Award Nominee: Shawn Moore

Denise
Nominated by: Shawn Moore

Tell us about the nominee's caregiving story.
I met my husband in March of 2013. He was just retiring from the Army after 23 years and 7 tours to Afghanistan. On our first date he was very upfront with me and told me that he suffered from PTSD. Being a police officer, I thought I knew the ins and outs of PTSD, but I was wrong. After knowing him for six weeks, I found myself talking him out of a closet. He thought he was being deployed and was agitated that he couldn’t find his combat boots. Never in my life did I think that I would have to put on my police officer hat in an intimate relationship. As a girlfriend, I couldn’t find the right words to say to snap him out of it. As a police officer, I could. That was the beginning of my caregiving journey, which proved to be a very lonely place until I started taking a proactive approach to finding out all I could about his injuries as well as where I could go for help.


My husband and I were involved in a local non-profit that consisted of a one-week healing academy for those veterans, soldiers, and first responders who suffered from PTS. I recognized the need to support the family members as well. Through my struggles I knew if you didn’t support the family it would still be hard on the veteran. I started a family support group through Hearts of Valor in the Fall of 2013. I have held support groups since that time and have met some incredible woman. I have also read all that I can on PTSD and other wounds that our soldiers come home with. In 2014 I started to take classes to finish my bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology but with my husband’s injuries it proved to be too much, and I didn’t feel like I had a handle on things. I readily admit that I started to see a therapist so that I could better assist my husband, our children, and myself with the challenges that we faced. Can you believe this was all before we got married! In 2015 we did get married and things started to level off since my husband had been in care. Shortly after we were married the VA decided that he didn’t need therapy anymore. Which was a huge blow to me because I believed he was doing well because of his treatment and without it he would sink into a depression again. My husband also suffers from being suicidal. Being a police officer, I knew how to ask the hard question of “Do you want to kill yourself” and have had to do it several times with my husband. I believe that being a police officer has made it easier to ask that question, but I do know it is so different when it comes to asking your loved one. In 2016 I had to ask just that question. When I got a yes from him I immediately took him to get care. After that he was able to start therapy again. My husband and I have also found that when someone has wounds from war it brings an even harder dynamic into your marriage. Marriage is tough to begin with. It is even tougher with a wounded warrior. We decided to be proactive with our marriage and attend couples counseling. Which we continue to do today.


In 2016 I decided to apply to become an Elizabeth Dole Fellow and was selected to represent Missouri in 2017 and 2018. I learned how to advocate for my husband’s care at the VA and have met some incredibly strong women and men. Through my outreach with other organizations and caregivers I found that something was missing. Many organizations were only supporting post 9/11 caregivers and I thought that was an injustice to those caregivers that have been on this journey for way longer than I have been. In the summer of 2017 I decided to start a non-profit called Caregivers on the Homefront to support those family members that were caring for all eras of veterans and military members as well as first responders.


August 9th, 2017 – the day that I will not forget. I have come to describe it as my worst call for service in my career as a police officer. I left the house like any other day and it seemed like it was a good day for my husband. Around noon I got a horrible gut feeling that something wasn’t right with him. I texted him. No answer. I called. Twice. No answer. I donned my police officer hat and went to work to find him. I tracked his phone. When I saw where he was I knew our day was not going to end well. You see, he was at a dead-end road with nothing around him. I headed that way. I called a friend of ours who also graduated the police academy with me. I asked him to meet me and told him what I thought. I knew in my heart that my husband had more than likely committed suicide. Unfortunately, my gut feeling was right. He had hung himself. Fortunately, even though he was not breathing, we were able to revive him.


I tell you this story because it is a story of resilience. I had signed up to finish my degree and classes were to start in five days. It was a tough couple of months. I didn’t want to leave the house for fear that when I returned my husband wouldn’t be there. But I persevered the best way I knew how to….one day at a time. I had been scheduled to leave for a retreat as well and went ahead and did so. I am so glad that I did! I was able to meet Laura Bauer and some wonderful caregivers. I was also able to share my story of my husband’s attempt and in doing so I started to find peace. I went on to continue to share it within my support group, in DC last November when the Dole Fellows got together for training, as well as recently on a panel at the Eastern VA’s Suicide Prevention Summit. I find that when I share my story it makes it ok for other caregivers to share their own story.


I have now finished my Bachelor’s in Social Psychology. I made it on the Dean’s list for both semesters. Through my circle of caregiver friends, I have found the one characteristic that we all have in common, even if we don’t quite know it yet, is resiliency. I have started my Master’s in Social Work program. My goal with my MSW is to provide services to caregivers and their families who need to know that they do have a resilient attitude within them as well as to bring credence to our non-profit and the programs that we are implementing. What I have learned in this short but seemingly long journey is that you can not do this alone. To do so will find you on a downward spiral just like your wounded warrior. You must find your tribe of caregivers that you can lean on for support. Find your passion. Educate yourself on your wounded warriors physical and mental wounds.


What I have learned the most on my journey of caregiving is that without other caregivers and military and veteran organizations that have programs for the caregiver, I would not be in the spot I am today. A caregiver never knows what the day may bring. Having a good support system gives you the courage and strength to keep moving forward. Even if it is one day at a time.

Tell us about the support the nominee provides. What makes it innovative? How has the support made caregiving easier or better?
Through our non-profit, Caregivers on the Homefront, we put together what we call our Caregiver Mental Health and Wellness Restorative Weekend. We wanted to give caregivers the tools they need to sustain their caregiving journey and not just a weekend away for respite. We focus on mindfulness and meditation, caregiver burden, secondary PTSD, caregiver suicide and isolation, as well as finding and keeping your own identity. I am not sure that caregiving will ever be easy all of the time, but it can be better when you find a tribe of like minded individuals who understand what you are going through. Through our programs, we hope to provide just that.


How does the nominee inspire others?
I try to inspire others by living what I preach. It is hard but I truly believe that we can come out on top when we use our lived experiences for good. I speak at community events and advocate for other caregivers by telling my story. Even in the darkest hours, if we reach out to others we can survive this journey. We hold in person and online support group meetings. We will also have two Restorative Weekends this year with the hopes of being able to provide one every quarter soon.

Please provide testimonials of family caregivers or former family caregivers who benefit from this support.
Here is some of the feedback we received after our first Restorative Weekend:


I was blessed to have been able to spend last weekend with a group of truly INCREDIBLE women. We participated in yoga nidra, made vision boards, had a writing workshop, we told our stories, we learned lessons from horses, we vented, we screamed, we busted watermelon, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we supported and encouraged each other. The best part of all was that we formed a tribe. Thank you Bryan N Shawn Moore and Rachel Moyers for all of your hard work in making this happen. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of Caregivers On The Homefronts inaugural Mental Health and Wellness Restorative Weekend. I’m so blessed that each one of these women have become part of my journey! #selfcare #wearecaregivers #imaworkinprogress#stillgrowing

Like many military caregivers, I struggle - logistically and emotionally - with finding the time and support for self-care. Last weekend, I had an opportunity to attend my first caregiver retreat. I almost didn’t go, but I headed to Kansas City and these women changed me. The mental work was exhausting but necessary. I’m incredibly grateful to Caregivers On The Homefront for the chance to learn more about myself and meet some strong women, all of whom I admire. Thank you to all of you. I’m here when you need me. Remember: don’t share your shit with someone who can’t support you. 💜

Attended a Mental Health and Wellness Restorative Weekend with Caregivers On The Homefront the past few days . Knew the organizers pretty well , was pretty excited to be able to get away for a few days. Little did I know what I actually got myself into. I am beyond impressed and so super proud of what Shawn, Rachel and Danielle successfully organized and accomplished with this event. I have discovered things about myself that have been long lost in the rollercoaster of living with a Combat PTSD/TBI injured husband. I have laughed, cried, talked , listened, laughed some more, created, made a 🍉explode, tried to write/journal , saw a horse rolling in the dirt, had a horse nibble on my pony tail holder like my dog used to, learned some
Simple yoga techniques and bonded with 11 fellow members of this new tribe. A tribe of some extraordinary women who walk the very same path I do in this crazy post military/war life. Some I knew before the event , some I have never met before yet within a few hours, felt like I have known them all my life . Women that I don’t even have to say much about anything and they understand in ways many others cannot. This life has taken so many “left turns”, probably a few U turns . And hit some pretty huge potholes. But yet I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Learned some skills that will alleviate some stressors and help propel me forward! A huge thank you to Caregivers on the Homefront and it’s sponsors for a powerful life changing weekend .
I’ve arrived back home in southern Illinois safely. This weekend was my first caregiver retreat! I was incredibly nervous and anxious because I did not know what to expect. I’d met Bryan N Shawn (Shawn) back in March along with Peggy at a workshop we did in KC, and I knew Corrine from writing conferences. 😊 Corrine quickly became “my person,” because she was one of the first people who got me for me, and for being a caregiver. She introduced me to resources and I’m forever grateful. I learned a lot about myself this weekend and feel equipped with tools to continue this journey of hope and healing. Huge shout out to Caregivers on the Homefront, all the sponsors and all of you. Thanks for being “my tribe.” 💜




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