Ida Carson knew something was wrong with her son during the time he was medically retiring from the military in 2012. When Ida’s husband, her son’s stepfather, died, she sensed there was more going on with him.
“I knew he was grieving his stepfather but I knew there was something different about him,” Ida said. “He wasn’t the son who left (for deployments) and came back. He was withdrawn.”
Her son was a staff sergeant in the Army, when he retired after serving more than a decade. He deployed multiple times for Operation Enduring Freedom. He was diagnosed with visible and invisible wounds related to his time in service. Ida was a caregiver for her husband and found herself back in that position for her son. She is now an Operation Homefront Hearts of Valor support group leader in her Dayton, Ohio, area.
Hearts of Valor supports caregivers nationwide through facilitating training for support group leaders, and once a year provides an all-expenses paid retreat for a group of caregivers. Ida attended the retreat in 2017 and made connections she still has today.
As a group leader, Ida focused on wellness for other caregivers.
“Prior to COVID-19, we do a meeting once a month,” she said. “We talk about needs, or issues. In the winter, we went to a tree lighting, we did spa days, just different things to make them feel special.”
Ida and her husband advocated for their son during the more than 10 years he was in the Army. During his deployments they sent care packages and even got donations from Hershey’s and Hanes to support his unit. Ida has since become an advocate for more wounded veterans. She has been invited to speak with state and national stakeholders and government officials, including promoting the Campaign for Inclusive Care to allow for caregivers to become a bigger part of the veteran’s medical care.
The donors who give to Operation Homefront are helping this work continue, she said.
“What happens when they give to us, is it allows those resources to continue,” Ida said. “They have been instrumental. And it’s not gone unnoticed.”