JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - You could call them the silent heroes. It's not uncommon for us to hear about the heroic efforts of our U.S. Military and the high prices they sometimes pay to protect our freedoms. But what about those who carry on for our wounded warriors, those who take care of them when they come home from battle?
As Dana Abudayeh organizes, sorts and packs a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, there's nothing you can see as she volunteers that shows you this Marine veteran's real story. You can't see her daily challenges and those of her her Marine veteran husband, Adel, who served five combat deployments from 2003 to 2010.
"During his deployments, he had gotten injured multiple times. He was exposed to multiple IEDs that exploded and he also has gotten shot in his leg and a gunshot wound to his arm," described Dana Abudayeh. After all Adel endured, in 2013 the Marine Corps realized it was too much.
"I think they kind of saw maybe what most people don't see, with the injuries and some of the memory loss because of the TBI and PTSD, and they decided - against his will - that he was going to be medically retired," said Abudayeh.
Dana had just received her teaching degree but knew now it was a more important to be a caregiver to her husband.
"I've never really thought about it as being hard. Sometimes it's exhausting, but it's not hard," said Abudayeh.
But Dana admits, between being a full-time caregiver and wife to her husband and mom to her two young sons, it's a lot. Sometimes it's easy to feel alone. That's why she gives even more of herself as a volunteer.
"I have really found joy and fulfillment in volunteering, especially when I get to work with children," said Abudayeh. Dana volunteers at her church and with groups like Hope for the Warriors, which helps veterans and caregivers like Dana. There is help like caregiver support groups, scholarships and workshops.
"I think that's what brings us altogether and I think that's what brings caregivers together to be stronger. If you can take care of yourself then you can take care of the family," explained Brittany Hunter, a social worker with Hope for the Warriors.
All of Dana's caring led to a big night for her family in September when she was named one of five Vigiano Family, Hope and Courage Award recipients for 2017.
"It was humbling because it's usually my husband getting recognized for awards, so I'm just there to go along with the program. So to be the one honored was incredible," described Abudayeh.
A humbling honor for work Dana said she was made to do.
"After everything my husband's been through, with the deployments after the injuries, you know, there's no way I could give up on him now."
Hope for the Warriors helps our wounded military and their families in so many ways. If you are a spouse and caregiver and would like to join their support groups - whether in person or on Facebook - you can head to this website, Hope for the Warriors, to apply. It's NewsChannel 12's commitment to bring you stories of our active duty military and veterans through our "Home of the Brave." You can find more stories HERE. You also see how you can help bring the Museum of the Marine to Jacksonville.