The city of Syracuse and Onondaga County have been designated as a Hidden Heroes community, which signifies support for Central New Yorkers who care for military veterans.
While many Americans will be watching fireworks and parades and lighting up barbecues at family gatherings this Fourth of July, the celebrations for some military veterans will be starkly different.
"Plans to drown out the noise and fireworks, and avoid crowds as much as possible. And plans to carry a burden that is inside them as they celebrate," said Kristen Muir, who has been caring for her husband ever since he returned from two tours of duty in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s stories like Muir’s that the Hidden Heroes community program shines a light on. A caregiver helping her husband deal with traumatic brain injury, PSTD and chronic pain.
"Flashbacks, nightmares, dissociative episodes, ambulances, police, migraines, pain meds, pain med addiction, combat vet anonymous, navigating the VA, anger, rage, hurt and tears, suicidal ideations, depression, new treatment, new therapies, new therapists and the list goes on. And I am weary," she said.
Earl Fontenot, with the central New York organization Clearpath for Veterans, says the time is right to pay attention to the thousands of caregivers who help vets.
"We’ve always in central New York had really good support for veterans," Fontenot said. "And I think now that spotlight needs to be shared with the caregivers that are taking care of veterans. The support has been there, but it hasn’t been publicly known. And I think this allows everyone knows publicly that our government officials stand behind caregivers."
Muir said she and her family is plugged in to those local agencies and organizations that help. And in telling her story to local, state and federal officials at a City Hall ceremony Monday, she hopes other military caregivers learn that there is help out there in central New York.
Syracuse joins Albany, Watertown, Elimra and more than 100 other cities in the nation designated as a Hidden Heroes community.