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National Commander Commentary

National Commander Commentary

AnnMarie Hurley, Auxiliary National Commander

Caregiving was needed decades after World War II veteran slept under asbestos pipe

When my late husband, Michael, couldn’t sleep well at night, neither could I, because his care was a big part of my life.

He was proud to have served on a troop ship during World War II, but he didn’t dwell on his service.

In 1944, he raised his hand to enlist in the Navy on his 17th birthday. The ship he served on made countless trips across the sea. Each night, he laid his head down to sleep in a bunk directly under a pipe insulated with asbestos.

He was proud his ship was among the first to transport Black soldiers overseas during the war. When the war was over, he came home and put the war behind him for many years.

Decades later, though, he developed breathing difficulties that worsened over time.

By 2004, Michael’s breathing issues were keeping him awake at night.

Something had to be done.

Finally, a friend from DAV convinced him to go to the VA, where he was eventually diagnosed with an airway disease attributed to his service.

I was proud to be by his side as he navigated countless doctor appointments, testings and screenings. Caregiving comprises many little things that fill the day. Daily to-do lists were the norm.

There were medical appointments to set up and prescriptions to fill, and he had to be driven to all the appointments.

He was a good patient, though, and never complained about his health or the many doctor appointments. But his health difficulties changed both of our lives.

Standing by a spouse when health issues arise is expected, but the new and necessary caregiving duties add up each day.

He dealt with hospitalizations as he was treated for asbestos exposure to his lungs, but it was too late to save his life. The asbestos-lined pipe he slept under on that ship contributed to his death on June 6, 2014.

I learned a hard truth in those final years with Michael. “In good times and in bad” has devastating consequences when we are there to hold the hand of a dying loved one. Those vows meant silently supporting my husband with nothing but hope and love during those trying times.

Close friends within DAV and the Auxiliary were there all along our journey to offer us assistance and comfort. Yet, in the night, catching breaths in the dark, we were alone.

DAV and their Auxiliary are the light for veterans and their families. We are a family to turn to after the darkest of nights. And the new DAV Caregivers Support initiative is one more resource to help show our country’s support for caregivers who share in the sacrifice of service. Find out more at davcaregiver.org.

If you want to find out more about the Auxiliary National Commander, you can find her biography here.