USO Brings Together Caregivers for Wounded Troops to Share Advice, Offer Support and Tackle Tough Issues

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National Experts and San Diego area Caregivers discuss Couples Intimacy, Raising Your Children During Transition and Coping with Invisible Wounds

It took years for me to go see my own therapist all by myself and that has helped so much.

Caregivers gathered in San Diego today to tackle issues unique to caring for our nation’s wounded, ill or injured service men and women. The USO Caregivers Conference, held several times each year in military communities across the nation, brought together caregivers from the San Diego area as well as national experts. More than 100 caregivers attended today’s conference, the majority from the San Diego area. In addition, the USO offered 10 scholarships to caregivers from Tennessee, North Carolina, Hawaii and Iowa. Attendees engaged in tough conversations surrounding issues like raising your children during transition, coping with invisible wounds like post traumatic stress and reconnecting with your spouse after injury.    

“We want to help families build a network of support for the future,” said Sloan Gibson USO CEO and President. “So they know there is still a caring community there to be with them. As you look at all the things we do, today’s event is one of more than 200 events specifically tailored for wounded, ill and injured troops and their families and their caregivers that will be delivered across the country by the USO.”

The conference kicked off with an interactive ice breaker led by Steve Shenbaum, President and Founder, game on Nation followed by a panel discussion on raising your children during transition. Children’s author and illustrator Trevor Romain joined Sarah Asmussen, a Clinical Neuropsychologist for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, and Diana Holmes a caregiver and mother of four children.

Melissa Novoa, caregiver and mother of five, offered candid advice about the challenges she faced when her husband returned home with invisible and visible wounds after being injured by a roadside bomb. During the question and answer period a caregiver asked Melissa how she copes with the ever changing behavior of a service member who suffers from post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

“I’ve learned that my every second, every hour, every day I don’t know whether he’s going to make me cry, he’s going to make me mad, he’s going to make me happy, or he’s going to be the person I married 13 years ago,” said Novoa. “I live every minute, every day and I handle each situation…never the same. I live it day by day. And at first I was walking on eggshells trying to accommodate only him. You are going to go crazy. You have to just handle the situation as it comes.”

Chaplain Laura Bender offered a unique perspective to the panel discussion on couples intimacy and communication having served in theater as a Marine Corps Chaplain in addition to helping couples negotiate marital issues and challenges. She discussed one of primary issues couples face after injury.

“I think one of the other underlining emotions is grief,” said Bender. “Grief of the loss of the relationship as it was. Grief at the loss of hope for the future in the way you had anticipated for that future to look. So grief is one of the issues that really need to be worked on with a counselor in a group session.”

As with every USO Caregivers Conference spouses, parents, children and siblings caring for their injured loved one were reminded to take care of themselves so they can better care for their wounded warrior. Nicole James, mother of two and caregiver to her husband who was left with invisible wounds after being injured by several IED blasts, says it is advice she regrets not taking sooner.

“I still regret it to this day that I didn’t go in and talk to someone right away,” said James. “It took years for me to go see my own therapist all by myself and that has helped so much. Just having somebody for me to talk to and it’s all about me, because so much of it is about my husband, about my kids and there’s no me. Just having somebody ask how I’m doing once a week has been amazing.”

This is the fourth USO Caregivers Conference, first in the San Diego area. The USO’s long-term program, USO Warrior and Family Care, was developed to support the continuum of care that will give returning wounded, ill and injured men and women the best chance to heal with honor. The USO’s goal for these healing heroes and their families is to sustain hope and instill confidence that they can achieve that happy and fulfilling future; keep their families strong and together; and for our nation’s wounded to have a plan for the future with an active support network in place.

Click here for full press kit and photos from today's event.


About the USO

The USO lifts the spirits of America¹s troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide. We provide a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases in the U.S. and abroad, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. We also provide critical support to those who need us most, including forward-deployed troops, military families, wounded warriors and families of the fallen. The USO is a private, non-profit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and services are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

In addition to individual donors and corporate sponsors, the USO is supported by President’s Circle Partners: American Airlines, AT&T, Clear Channel, The Coca-Cola Company, jcpenney, Jeep, Kangaroo Express, Kroger, Lowe’s, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Procter & Gamble, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Worldwide Strategic Partners: BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft Corporation and TKS Telepost Kabel-Service Kaiserslautern GmbH & Co. KG. We are also supported through the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-11381). To join us in this patriotic mission, and to learn more about the USO, please visit

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