Local Pasco resident Tiffany Smiley has been selected to represent the state of Washington as a veteran caregiver by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, a national nonprofit.
She and her husband Scotty travel the country telling their story of veteran injury recovery.
On April 6, 2005, Tiffany received the call any military wife dreads.
“My world kind of fell apart, too, on that day.”
Her husband serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, said the last thing he saw was a suicide bomber before everything went black. He was left with severe injuries and life-long blindness.
“She never left,” Scotty explained, acknowledging his wife. “And I think that…gave me a huge amount of motivation…that life wasn't over.”
Tiffany quit her job as a nurse to help take care of Scotty, becoming one of the 5.5 million veteran caregivers in the U.S.
“It’s overwhelming,” Tiffany said. “And you're just kind of trying to stay above water.”
However, the couple powered forward. With the help of Tiffany, Scotty went on to become the first blind active-duty officer in the military.
“People often forget about the hero behind the hero,” smiles Tiffany.
Twelve years after Scotty’s injury, the couple has three sons. Scotty wrote a book called Hope Unseen, participated in a triathlon and was featured in a documentary.
Most recently, Tiffany shared her story personally with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
“In 2005, we never thought that Scotty and I would be able to talk to lawmakers,” Tiffany said.
With her new role as 2017 Elizabeth Dole Foundation Dole Caregiver Fellow, Tiffany will push even harder for government policies supporting veteran caregivers and families.
“As caregivers we have to take care of ourselves first,” Tiffany said. “It's a hard concept to figure out, and I kind of learned the hard way.”
The Smileys are in the process of relocating to their hometown of Pasco from Spokane. They’re planning more travel to spread awareness and help others who feel broken and who are looking to get their own smiles back.
“Our circumstances don't have to be what define us,” Tiffany said. “And they can actually be what propel us forward.”
Between March and April, Tiffany and Scott plan to travel to about ten cities nationwide to share their story and spread awareness of veteran caregiving. In May and June, they will be speaking at local events in Eastern Washington.
More information can be found on Tiffany’s blog.
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