Tom Hanks, Tom Brokaw, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald joined Senator Elizabeth Dole in Washington, DC last week to launch Hidden Heroes, a groundbreaking campaign created by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to call vital attention to America’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers.
As campaign chair, Hanks presided over the launch that included a series of major announcements and commitments that will bring critical resources to those caring for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
“If we want to be a nation that truly cares for those who have borne the battle, we must also be a nation that cares for our caregivers,” said Hanks as he called on public leaders, corporations, nonprofits and individual Americans to each do their part.
The launch event unveiled key national initiatives of the campaign, including:
• Video public service announcements featuring Hanks. A print public service announcement has already begun running in October editions of national magazines.
• HiddenHeroes.org, a new website launched as the premier online community for military caregivers. The website features a private community where military caregivers can share questions and advice, a directory for caregiver resources, and a national military caregiver registry to help connect caregivers with support. The website also features a call to action page for every American who wishes to be part of the campaign.
• The Hidden Heroes Cities initiative that will challenge communities across America to organize and provide local military caregivers with the resources they need. Fifty four cities were announced as the first Hidden Heroes Cities. Other communities can sign-on through HiddenHeroes.org.
Addressing what she hopes to accomplish through the campaign, Senator Dole said, “The Elizabeth Dole Foundation envisions an America where military caregivers are empowered, appreciated and recognized for their service to the nation. Together, are working towards a future where supporting military caregivers is no longer a cause, but it is part of the culture of our nation.” The Senator went on to announce additional national initiatives already underway as part of the campaign and introduce the leaders of the first organizations to make commitments:
• Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, Army National Guard (Retired), and Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, contributed $1 million in support of the campaign. Colonel Pritzker will also serve as the campaign’s Vice Chair.
• The United Arab Emirates, represented by His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the UAE to the USA, contributed $1 million to the campaign.
• USAA, represented by Harriet Dominique, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Community Affairs, stepped forward as both a campaign sponsor and the first corporation in America to dedicate a pillar of its corporate responsibility program to military and veteran caregivers.
• The City of San Diego, represented by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, committed to become the first city in America to join the campaign as a Hidden Heroes City.
• Comcast NBCUniversal, represented by Brigadier General Carol Eggert, Army (Retired), Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs, will serve as the official media partner of Hidden Heroes, helping reach caregivers and supportive Americans across all its communications channels. In a special video message, NBC News’ TODAY anchor Matt Lauer spoke to the commitment of NBC News to follow the campaign’s progress and pledged his personal support as a Hidden Heroes Ambassador.
The emcee of the event, Richard Lui, MSNBC anchor, announced that Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent, would also join the campaign as a Hidden Heroes Ambassador. Brokaw, one of the most respected names in news, spoke about America’s legacy of coming together to support its military and veteran communities. His remarks reflected Senator Dole’s original call for a national response to the caregiver crisis following the release of a 2014 RAND caregiver study commissioned by her Foundation.
Two of the Foundation’s earliest supporters, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, spoke to the need of a national campaign for military caregivers. The U.S. Congress and Department of Veterans Affairs have both taken steps to ease the challenges of those caring for service members and veterans. Yet, they echoed Senator Dole’s call for every American to recognize and support these hidden heroes.
In addition to the commitments announced by campaign leaders, the launch event recognized the Starr Foundation for its enduring commitment to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and The Independence Fund for its contributions to Hidden Heroes. Additional support was provided by Hilton Hotels, American Airlines, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Booz Allen Hamilton and Hope for the Warriors.