Wounded Warrior Project Helps Veteran Family Live Independently and Plan for the Future
February 17 is National Caregivers Day
When Navy veteran Marquise Morris was stationed in Japan in 2011, becoming ill from an infectious disease like encephalitis was the furthest thing from the mind of this healthy 26-year-old sailor.
Encephalitis is a serious illness that, in some cases, can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to paralysis, weakness, memory loss, hearing/vision/speech impairment, or even death. According to Mayo Clinic, it can be caused by a mosquito-borne virus or another type of virus. Although anti-viral drugs can be used to treat viral encephalitis, some insect-borne viruses do not respond to treatment.
Marquise suffered an anoxic (lack of oxygen) brain injury because of the viral infection. He required long-term physical rehabilitation, which meant around-the-clock special care. His life, and the lives of his family members, would not be the same.
Finding Peace of Mind
The first four years were rough, despite support from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Marquise was transported to Atlanta to be closer to relatives who could help with his care. His wife, Chiharu, and young son, Leo, were eventually able to move to the U.S. from Japan, too, and Chiharu became his primary caregiver.
In 2015, Marquise’s grandmother heard about the Independence Program from Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). The program helps injured or ill service members, whether combat or non-combat injured, who are living with issues that impact their independence, such as moderate to severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, or neurological conditions. It also supports the caregivers who selflessly dedicate their time and energy to the well-being of their loved ones.
WWP provided Marquise with a case manager, a local community support specialist, and music therapy. It provided respite and translation services for Chiharu and tutoring for Leo. WWP also helped obtain a YMCA membership that the whole family could use to support their physical and social health.
“I felt happy because Marquise was able to work with life coaches, and he can feel he’s making progress,” Chiharu said. She was able to use the gym and swimming pool at the YMCA, and Leo could use the pool in the Summer.
In addition, the Independence Program provided Marquise, Chiharu and Leo with access to rehabilitative services through Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, a nonprofit that works in partnership with Shepherd Center, a brain injury facility in Atlanta.
Making Space for the Caregiver
Thanks to Independence Program’s respite care, Chiharu was also able to rebuild her quality of life. She attended Leo’s school activities, including chorus concerts and school field trips. Leo remembers and appreciates the fact that his mom could show up for him. “Because of Wounded Warrior Project, my mom was able to attend many things with me! I was very happy,” he said.
With more time back, Chiharu is also thinking about restarting her career. In Japan, Chiharu worked as a dog groomer before moving to the U.S. to care for Marquise. She is currently interested in attending dog grooming school to reenter the industry. “Before I married Marquise, my dream was to challenge myself to see how far my grooming skills could go,” Chiharu said. She is planning on a combination of online and hands-on training to update her skills.
“Wounded Warrior Project has worked with Marquise and me for about eight years now and has helped get us to this point,” Chiharu said. “I’ve put Marquise and my son first, and I feel I can make some space for myself now.”
Planning for the Future – Estate, Financial and Life-Care Services
WWP’s Independence Program is not one-size-fits-all. Each warrior and family’s needs are unique, and a dedicated case manager works to help each individual thrive and reach their goals at home, in their communities, and in their plans for the future.
“We kept hearing from caregivers, ‘what happens to my warrior when I’m no longer here to provide care?’ and the answer is continuous care services,” said Alex Balbir, Independence Program director at WWP, and a Ph.D. researcher and Navy reservist.
“We would like to see warriors plan for the future in a way that allows them to remain as independent as possible – even if and when their caregiver is not able to provide the care and services they need,” Balbir explained.
Marquise and Chiharu began the planning process with continuous care services in June 2021. First, the couple was guided through a life care plan, which recorded their wishes for long-term care when Chiharu can no longer physically care for Marquise. At the same time, WWP reviewed and optimized their current VA benefits. They also had the opportunity to meet with a financial planner, and an estate planner. Together, they crafted a plan for Marquise’s future care and created stability for the family and their future needs.
“I always think about our son’s future, school, work, and want to make sure he is provided for,” Chiharu said. The Independence Program is helping to alleviate that concern.
“Warriors and families need support along their journey when they transition to home settings. Independence Program provides wraparound care to these families, and we’re here now and in the future to help them plan for their future independence.” “My favorite part of what I do is watching veterans’ lives transform,” Balbir added.
To learn more about WWP’s Independence program and other services available to injured veterans and their caregivers, contact the WWP Resource Center at 888.WWP.ALUM (888.997.2586) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Raquel Rivas – Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.426.9783
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.