Army spouse to advocate for military caretakers through foundation fellowship

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times | Published: March 11, 2014

FORT DRUM, N.Y.  — A spouse and caretaker from post is looking forward to the chance to advocate for other military caretakers, as she recently started a fellowship with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

In her new role, Teresa M. Henning will serve as the state’s sole fellow for the organization, which advocates on behalf of military families and caregivers.

“If I can help others, I’m more than willing to do it,” she said.

Mrs. Henning has been taking care of her husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Henning, a military police officer, since he suffered a traumatic brain injury, nerve damage in his shoulder, a broken rib and other injuries in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in 2008. The incident negatively affected her husband’s short-term memory, she said.

Though her husband still serves on post in the 227th Military Police Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, Mrs. Henning said someday his health issues could lead to a medical retirement.

In addition to handling most of her household’s responsibilities, Mrs. Henning is balancing her caretaking work with a full-time job as a basic skills education instructor aiding soldiers looking to advance their education to further their Army careers.

She also completed a master’s degree in the months after her husband was injured.

Mrs. Henning said she and her husband had to go through a lot of red tape in the immediate aftermath of the attack in order for him to stay in uniform. For those in similar situations, she said, she hopes she can provide some inspiration that things will get better.

“To pass that along to people who are just getting started can be a huge difference,” Mrs. Henning said.

The Hennings, originally from the Binghamton area, have been at the post since April 2009.

Mrs. Henning said that for many military caregivers, the hard work of balancing life caring for their soldier and other priorities can be very stressful.

“A lot of caregivers get burned out. They get health problems of their own,” she said.

The needs of those caretakers remain important, even as the United States prepares to reduce its involvement in places such as Afghanistan. Mrs. Henning said many soldiers are facing injuries connected to their time in service overseas.

“Somebody has to take care of them when they come home,” she said.

Like her own experiences with her husband, Mrs. Henning said, many caregivers will have to fight through bureaucratic obstacles to get the help their families need.

“Things have gotten better, but there still needs to be a lot of improvements,” she said.


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