The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced Silvia Lopez of Dover will join its 2020 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows — 30 military and veteran caregivers who have been carefully selected from across the country to represent those Americans caring for a wounded, ill or injured service member or veteran at home.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Lopez will serve as a leader, community organizer and advocate for the nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers — the spouses, parents, family members and friends who provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care annually to someone who served. They will join the 225 past and present fellows who are trained by the foundation and empowered to share their stories and perspectives directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith and nonprofit sectors. The fellows will provide feedback to the foundation, its coalition partners and government and community leaders on the most pressing issues concerning military caregivers and influence positive change on behalf of these hidden heroes.

“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veteran, we are grateful for their experiences, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”

Lopez serves as a caregiver for her husband, Alex, who sustained post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury, depression, agoraphobia, Meniere’s disease and skin conditions due to exposure to chemicals while processing remains as a result of his military service.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole created the Dole Caregiver Fellows program in 2012 to directly engage military and veteran caregivers in the foundation’s mission. The 2020 Fellows class includes loved ones whose service members and veterans represent all branches of service and different eras of peace and conflict. The 2020 class represents 23 states and includes a retired father caring for his daughter and her son, an occupational therapist who took on her own fiancé's full-time care and a wife who assumed care of her husband and pulled them back from the brink of homelessness.

For more, visit elizabethdolefoundation.org.