Nuckoles, along with 27 other active military and veteran caregivers, 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 founder and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. “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.”
Amanda Nuckoles cares for her husband, Ray, an Army veteran. The two met online several years ago and talked for quite a while before they met in person.
“And this was before cellphones with cameras. I had no clue what he looked like until we finally met,” said Amanda Nuckoles. “It was love at first sight; although, to be honest, I was already in love with him before I ever saw him.”
The two were married nearly 13 years ago. Ray Nuckoles was injured in Iraq in 2007, which began his wife’s care for him.
“Ray sustained many physical injuries, including a broken back, injured knee, elbow, neck and arm,” said Nuckoles. “He also suffers from migraines, nosebleeds, lung and breathing issues, in addition to other complications. Although surgeries stabilized some of the physical problems, it took a toll on his brain. It took a little while to realize that these changes are the new normal. These life-altering changes pose challenges to Ray daily. However, I am happy to be by his side as his wife and caregiver.”
Amanda Nuckoles said caring for her husband has become her focus full-time, but she was still able to accomplish quite a bit while also caretaking.
“Due to the care of my husband, I was unable to retain employment,” said Amanda Nuckoles. “I worked for a little while, but there were incidents that made it clear that I needed to be home full time to properly care of my husband. That said, I did finish my degree in psychology with a double minor in mental health and criminal justice. Despite my full plate, I also graduated magna cum laude.”
For more information on the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, visit elizabethdolefoundation.org.