Hanks to military caregivers: 'You're on the frontlines'

Elizabeth Howe
November 30, 2018 - 12:12 pm

"When one of the Dole's calls your office and wants to get together to talk, you go to that meeting," Tom Hanks said of his first meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Dole about supporting military caregivers. "But before you leave, you tell your staff — when I come back, I will be involved with something."

The effort that Dole asked Hanks to support  was the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's Hidden Heroes campaign. At last night's inaugural Hidden Heroes and History Makers event, Hanks was honored with the inaugural Hidden Heroes Champion award for all the work he has done since.

"There is no way the Elizabeth Dole Foundation could have accomplished this progress alone," said Dole. "That's why we want to dedicate an annual award to an organization or individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the support, recognition, and empowerment of our military caregivers. And there is no one more fitting to receive our inaugural award than our Hidden Heroes Campaign Chair Tom Hanks."

Since joining the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's effort, Hanks has provided tremendous support to Hidden Heroes and the foundation by raising awareness for the 5.5 million caregivers working in America to support military veterans. In addition to raising awareness and working with legislators, Hanks has been known to reach out to caregivers directly just to check in.

"You didn't enlist — your loved one did," Hanks said to the caregivers in the audience. "You're still a civilian. But you're getting called on now to serve our nation in a way that is of equal if not more importance because your hitch isn't up in five years. Your hitch is going to go on and on and on...You're on the frontlines of a daily struggle that is not going to end any time soon."

The foundation also recognized Sen. Susan Collins and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi with Congressional Champion awards for the work they have done in Congress to raise awareness of and support legislation for military caregivers. 

"When Elizabeth Dole calls, everyone answers," said Pelosi. "And if you want to save time, just respond immediately. You will end up doing what she asks, so you might as well answer."

This week, Pelosi moved one step closer to becoming next year's Speaker of the House — during her remarks she commented on how she would continue to push for the needs of military caregivers. 

"There is nothing partisan about fighting for our nation's military caregivers," Pelosi said. "It is so important to our veterans, so important to our caregivers, that we strive for bipartisanship as we further advance and progress...We will leave no one behind when it comes to our military families."

This commitment to future efforts was a common theme among the evening's award recipients, including Hanks. 

"Well over a million caregivers are now operating with the help of the foundation. All right. So we're 20 percent there," Hanks said, implying the remaining 4.5 million military caregivers not yet connecting with the foundation. "This is a wonderful celebration, but it's not celebrating the end of anything. It's to mark the start of work that is going to be going on for a generation."

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