Meet Melissa Comeau, Director of Military and Veteran Caregiver Network at the American Red Cross. Her organization provides the needed care and support to the military members, their families, and trains veteran caregivers.
Melissa’s life took a 360-degree turn when her husband came back injured from the Navy. In the blink of an eye, she went from being a bookkeeping accountant to a full-time caregiver. After spending years at her former job, she found her passion for caregiving. Now she is invested in the long-term care of the nation’s heroes and their family members.
As a child, Comeau moved a lot. She was born in Canada and her family immigrated to the United States when she was 2, where she lived in Southern California until she was 10. Then, they moved to Australia to live in the cities to the outback and up to where the rainforest meets the reef before finally coming back to the United States and settling in Arizona. Melissa did her bachelor’s in Accounting and recently completed her master’s in IT Project Management from Colorado Technical University.
Before becoming a full-time caregiver, Comeau worked in accounting and used to do bookkeeping for small businesses. When her husband came back injured from the Navy, her life changed. She decided to create a change and help the family of the military members in the same situation. She started volunteering at various Non-profits that supported military families. Based on her experiences, she wrote a book ‘Sleeping with the War’ in 2014 that talks about the family and caregiver perspective to life after combat. From here she was selected as a fellow at the ‘Elizabeth Dole Foundation’ to help create a larger platform for military and veteran caregivers. And thus began her journey as a professional caregiver.
Talking about her organization, she says, “The Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) offers peer-based support and services to connect those providing care to service members and veterans living with wounds, illnesses, injuries and/or aging. The mission of the MVCN is to provide our nation’s military and veteran caregivers of all eras with peer support to reduce isolation and increase connection, engagement, knowledge, skills, and hope”.
Comeau has come to believe that even technology could have a heart. The organization is using video-conferencing and other technologies to give the caregivers support and training from the comfort of their homes or wherever their care journey takes them. Their technology programs are heart-centric and break the social barriers to help caregivers wherever they are located. Her MSM in IT and Project Management helped her flourish in this area of caregiving.
When she became a full-time caregiver at 31, Melissa had to give up her dream of starting a bookkeeping and tax-preparation business. But she doesn’t have any regrets, as she realized her real passion was caregiving. She was scared to go back to work because she knew caregiving will always be her priority. Now, she leads a team of caregivers and helps them find employment. She maintains a dedicated balance between work and caregiving; and is proud to share her success with other caregivers.
Looking back at her journey as a caregiver all these years, Melissa says, “Some of the worst days of our lives can bring us the best people of our lives. While I wish my husband did not get injured, I am grateful for the honor of caring for him. I am grateful for the person caregiving has carved me into. I am grateful for the silver lining friendships we have created and a new perspective on what it is to live a meaningful life”.