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Honoring unsung heroes

Bonney Lake military spouse becomes local fellow for nationwide caregiving foundation

Bonney Lake resident and military caregiver Connie Ozmer and family. Photo courtesy of Connie Ozmer, 2019 Dole Caregiver Fellow

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There's no shortage of non-profit organizations and foundations geared towards veterans and military personnel, and for excellent reason: the dedication to service and sacrifices made in order to accomplish missions rooted in honor and defense deserves the resources and aid others are able to give. Sometimes, however, a spotlight must be shone on the families of servicemen and women -- illuminating the spouses, children, and parents who carry a unique burden and make sacrifices of their own as a demonstration of support. At the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, such spotlights gleam on the 5.5 million military caregivers who have taken it upon themselves to give back in a deeply meaningful way.

Established in 2012 by Senator Elizabeth Dole, the Foundation was created with the sole mission of empowering caregivers across the nation by blending the platforms of advocacy, research, and community collaborations in order to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable work done in dedication to veterans. The Foundation's flagship Hidden Heroes Campaign not only places an emphasis on the untold stories of military caregivers, but also provides a comprehensive network for caregivers to connect with one another and utilize valuable resources reviewed by the organization.

In February 2019, Bonney Lake resident Connie Ozmer was selected by the Foundation to serve a two-year term as a Dole Foundation Fellow, representing Washington as one of 26 selected military caregivers from across the country. Ozmer became a caregiver 16 years ago after her husband Tim was wounded in an IED explosion in Iraq and sustained a major spinal injury. Although the surgery that replaced a portion of his spine with a titanium tube was a success, the road to recovery was a long and arduous one.

Determined to heal and resume his tour, Ozmer set about ensuring her husband's ambitions came to fruition by becoming his primary caregiver. From assisting Tim with his body brace every day, to transporting him to various appointments on a regular basis, Connie's resolve to help played a pivotal role in Tim's five-month recovery, allowing him to return to Iraq to complete the last three months of his tour. Since then, he deployed in 2008 and is preparing to deploy again this year.

In her new role, Ozmer has healthy ambitions of her own -- "What I'm most excited about is the opportunity to help people, especially caregivers. It's a population that hasn't really been thought about in the past," Ozmer explains excitedly. "I love the idea of being able to raise awareness around this issue. There are a lot of caregivers who need help and might not be getting enough support."

If injuries sustained in combat are the somber gray clouds that litter the sky, then the caregivers who serve to soothe, aid, and rehabilitate are the blessed silver linings interwoven amongst them. Thankfully, with committed caregivers like Connie Ozmer, the silver linings are easier to find -- all 5.5 million of them.

For more information about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, or to register as a military caregiver, please visit and

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