The story of Kevin Kammerdiener is heartbreaking. The 21-year-old graduate of Karns City High School who joined the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade two years ago suffered catastrophic injuries on May 31, 2008, when a suicide bomber in Afghanistan slammed into his Humvee.
He gave all but his life in service to his country and, since that day, he has been fighting for small victories in his recovery -- the ability to walk, slowly and with the aid of a cane, and talk, so far just 35 words.
All along the way, his mother, Leslie, has been there, giving up her job and life in East Brady to care for him, moving to Florida and a home where he can move about more freely, ignoring her own health and well-being to provide loving, daily care.
Post-Gazette writer Michael A. Fuoco and photographer Rebecca Droke presented the Kammerdieners' story in a two-part series Sunday and Monday, a story shared by thousands of mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, sisters and brothers who are caring for veterans who came home from Afghanistan and Iraq with traumatic brain injuries.
Ms. Kammerdiener, like so many family caregivers, receives no compensation for her work, no health-care coverage, no breaks. Most of her help comes from other family members.
Measures in Congress aim to provide some care for these caregivers. House Resolution 3155 would give family members of seriously wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan access to health-care services that many lack, VA training and certification and at least 30 days of respite care per year. Senate Bill 801 would give monthly stipends to family caregivers, as well.
That bill recognizes the value of work being done by relatives, and the government could save money. The cost of institutional care can be as much as $320,000 per veteran per year. And studies have shown that veterans get better, and faster, when their care comes from a relative.
On Sunday, Kevin Kammerdiener received the Purple Heart medal in recognition of his service to his country. Congress has the capacity to present his mother and the thousands of family caregivers the commendation they deserve -- assistance and support for their service to wounded veterans.