The following is a press release from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation:
Bonney Lake resident Connie Ozmer is part of the 2019 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows – one of 26 military and veteran caregivers selected from across the country to represent the ongoing mission of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Ozmer will serve as an advocate and ambassador for the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who provide voluntary care for wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans every year. In that role, she will represent Washington from 2019-21.
She joins nearly 170 past and present Fellows who are trained by the Foundation and empowered to share their stories and perspectives directly with the White House, Congress, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as leaders in the business, entertainment, and nonprofit sectors. She will advise the Foundation, its coalition partners, and government and community leaders on the most pressing issues concerning military caregivers and influence positive change on behalf of these hidden heroes.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Ozmer’s goal is to enlighten her community about the unique issues of National Guard caregivers.
CONNIE OZMER’S STORY
Ozmer is a military caregiver for her high school sweetheart Tim, a member of the National Guard. One of her biggest challenges has been helping him regain strength, balance and stability in his physical well-being.
Sixteen years ago, while deployed to Iraq, Tim was wounded in an IED explosion that fractured his L4 vertebrae. When she received notification of her husband’s injury, she immediately took a flight to Germany to be with him during surgery to replace part of his spine with a titanium tube and fuse three vertebrae.
After their return home, Tim made it clear that he wanted to go back and finish his tour. Ozmer was determined to help him make that happen and cared for him around the clock. As her husband’s primary caregiver, Ozmer drove him to physical therapy appointments and made sure he received all the needed tests and treatment to help him regain his physical strength. Every day, she would help him strap on a body brace so they could take a walk down the road with their two daughters, who were just 2 and 4 when he was injured.
At first, her husband couldn’t walk far without pain, but Ozmer helped him progress from the body brace to soft body armor, proving his ability to return to duty. Just five months after his accident, Tim was set to redeploy and reunite with his soldiers for the last three months of their tour, and then deployed again to Iraq in 2008. Now, as a squadron commander, Tim is set to deploy again this year.
Today, Ozmer remains an integral part of Tim’s ongoing care. She continues to assist him with pain management, remaining vigilant to any changes in his physical and mental health, and facilitating regularly-scheduled check-ups.
This is in addition to her job with Western Governors University. She volunteers at Fisher House, an organization that provided her a place to stay in Germany during her husband’s surgery.
ABOUT THE DOLE FOUNDATION
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s goal is to empower, support and honor the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends — who care for America’s wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans at home.
Founded by Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2012, the Foundation adopts a comprehensive approach in its support and advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and faith communities to recognize military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being. The Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Campaign brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and provides a network for military caregivers to connect with their peers and access carefully vetted resources.
Dole created the Dole Caregiver Fellows program in 2012 to directly engage military and veteran caregivers in the Foundation’s mission. The 2019 Fellows represent 20 states and the District of Columbia.