Nieskens named Dole Foundation Fellow
February 21, 2018
Cardwell resident and Whitehall High School Principal Hannah Nieskens was recently selected by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to serve as a 2018 Dole Caregiver Fellow.
Nieskens is among 27 other active military and veteran caregivers that will join nearly 150 past and present Dole Caregiver Fellows to bring attention to the crisis faced by America's 5.5 million hidden heroes – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care for wounded, ill, or injured veterans.
"Our Fellows are the heart and soul of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation," said Senator Elizabeth Dole, Founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. "We are thrilled to welcome their unique voices and contributions to our work. Though they come from different states and territories and care for veterans and service members with a variety of needs, these brave men and women share common stories of struggle and triumph, resilience and hope. I look forward to working with them as they mobilize their communities, and the nation, in support of hidden heroes."
As a RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Foundation pointed out, a well-supported caregiver is the single most important factor in a veteran's improvement and recovery. Dole Caregiver Fellows advise the Foundation, its coalition partners, and government and community leaders on the most pressing issues concerning military caregivers.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Nieskens would like to increase public awareness about the role and contributions of military caregivers, impact national policies and programs which address military caregiver needs, and act as resource and source of support to other military caregivers.
Nieskens said in 2005 her husband Kelly went to Iraq as a healthy 23-year-old soldier, and returned with multiple serious injuries that will require constant care for the rest of his life.
"I feel fortunate that my husband has survived his injuries and grateful for every day I have with him. Even though I altered my life to take care of my husband, I didn't sacrifice the quality of my life. My husband and I have a thriving marriage and three wonderful children. I am employed as a school principal and have three graduate degrees. I am passionate about veteran and caregiver advocacy," Nieskens said.
The Principal the last three years at Whitehall High School, Nieskens said the moment she realized she was a military caregiver was at a point in time gave up her employment in order to support her husband's recovery.
"Since that time, I have rebuilt my career, but my priorities have changed. The health and well-being of my family will always come first," she said.
If Nieskens could give advice to fellow military caregivers, it would be to adjust their expectations, but to not give up on their aspirations.
"As a caregiver of a wounded veteran you can still have goals and ambitions. I am employed as a high school principal and have earned three graduate degrees. I thrive on challenge and believe resilience, hard work, and perseverance have helped me to build a life I love," she said.
To read more about Nieskens and the other fellows visit hiddenheroes.org/stories and http://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org.