Jackson named Dole Foundation fellow

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BENNINGTON — Vermont Veterans' Home administrator Melissa Jackson has been named a Caregiver Fellow of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

Dole is one of 28 caregivers in the veterans advocacy organization's class of 2018. Caregiver Fellows serve two-year terms with the organization. Jackson, of Dorset, will be the only Vermont resident represented among the group, and one of only two New Englanders, alongside Betty O'Brien of Belchertown, Massachusetts.

"In her role as a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Melissa Jackson will advise the Foundation, its coalition partners, and government and community leaders on the most pressing issues concerning military caregivers, as well as mobilize her community to strengthen support and develop resources for these hidden heroes," said the organization in a press release.

Jackson joined the Veterans Home as its new administrator on the first day of 2011, replacing Colleen Rundell.

"In my role as a Dole Caregiver Fellow, I hope to shed more light on the various caregiver support services outside of the VA," said Jackson. "I also hope to provide information and education on non-pharmalogical interventions for pain."

"My husband, Tom, served as a submariner for 21 years," she said. "He has severe back pain related to herniated and bulging discs. He is unable to stand for long periods of time and at times can barely walk or get out of bed. He tries to live as normal of a life as possible, but becomes easily frustrated when he needs help from me or our children to complete tasks he used to do alone. My dad, Harry, was a Vietnam Navy veteran who had Lou Gehrig's Disease for 10 years before he died. As the disease progressed, he lost his ability to move and needed a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat. He always found the joy in his life, especially his grandkids, no matter how much pain he was in."

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation was founded in 2012 by Dole, who was a U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 2003 to 2009, commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission under Richard Nixon, secretary of transportation under Ronald Reagan, and secretary of labor under George H.W. Bush.

On the organization's website, www.elizabethdolefoundation.org, it describes itself as, "the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation's 5.5 million military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America's wounded, ill, or injured veterans."

The foundation's mission is to, "Strengthen and empower America's military caregivers and their families by raising public awareness, driving research, championing policy, and leading collaborations that make a significant impact on their lives."

"Our Fellows are the heart and soul of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation," said Dole. "We are thrilled to welcome their unique voices and contributions to our work. Though they come from different states and territories and care for veterans and service members with a variety of needs, these brave men and women share common stories of struggle and triumph, resilience and hope. I look forward to working with them as they mobilize their communities, and the nation, in support of hidden heroes."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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