Then, Now, and Forever: The Stories of Caregivers and the Veterans they Love
It’s day three of our four-part series of sharing the love stories of Veterans’ caregivers.
Today’s couple, Jennifer, and Jon Justen live in Minnesota and have been married for 25 years. Here’s Jennifer’s story about how she fell in love with Jon, and why she thinks the Peer Support Mentoring Program is so important to caregivers.
Jennifer and Jon Justen: A Couple Who Laughs Together, Stays Together
Jennifer’s husband, a Marine Corps Gulf War Veteran, was a friend of a friend when she met him more than two decades ago. She was a bored designated driver, and he was the host of the party she was attending. Now, the two have been married for 25 years and Jennifer says she still laughs at her husband’s jokes after all of this
Q: Where was your first date with Jon?
Jennifer: We had our first date at the Mall of America here in Minnesota. He told me he’d buy me anything I wanted. I thought it was odd (laughs) but sweet.
Q: Did you know he was the one right away?
Jennifer: He told me I was the one right away (laughs). We were engaged six months after we met and were married six months after our engagement. Nine months later, we had our first son. We have two boys, 19 and 23.
Q: What do you and Jon do for fun?
Jennifer: Jon needs full- time care now because he’s living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and Agoraphobia. Before that, we used to travel a lot. We’d get vacation homes and take our boys to Florida or we’d travel with friends and take trips to like Mexico or Las Vegas. We’d have friends over often. When his PTSD came to the forefront 10 years ago, that began to lessen.
Q: What aspects of what made you fall in love with Jon are the same?
Jennifer: He still has a sense of humor. There are times when we can still sit around and have fun or watch silly shows. We love watching NCIS together.
Q: You began your journey as Jon’s caregiver 10 years ago. What advice can you give to other caregivers?
Jennifer: My advice would be to hold on to the really good days to get through the tougher days.
Q: You’re a mentor in the Peer Support Mentoring Program. What do you like most about the program and why is it important.
Jennifer: I’ve been a mentor for about two and a half years. It gives me something positive to do and gives me a sense of purpose.
The best part of the program is that everyone in the program gets it [being a caregiver]. You can tell a story, and nobody is going to think you’re crazy. Nobody is going to ask you why you’re still doing what you do. We bounce ideas off each other without fear. The program lets you know that you’re not the only one going through what you’re dealing with.
About the Caregiver Peer Mentoring Program
The Peer Support Mentoring Program provides an opportunity for caregivers to receive guidance and to share their experiences, wisdom, skills, and passion with other caregivers. The program is offered under VA’s Caregiver Support Program, Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS). PGCSS is available to all caregivers of Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. There are no eligibility requirements for PGCSS and no formal application. To learn more about the Peer Support Mentoring Program click here: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/Peer_Support_Mentoring_Program.asp
Caregiver Support Coordinator
Your local Caregiver Support Coordinator is a licensed professional who can support you by matching you with services for which you are eligible, and providing you with valuable information about resources that can help you stay smart, strong and organized as you care for the Veteran you love. Find your local Caregiver Support Coordinator
Caregiver Support Line
With VA's Caregiver Support Line – 1-855-260-3274 – assistance is just a quick phone call away. If you're just getting started with VA, calling the Caregiver Support Line is a great first step to take to learn more about the support that's available to you.
Caregiver Support Program (CSP) - Menu of Resources