The Real Life of a Hidden Helper

September 27, 2022

Episode 241

Listen on PodBean

Description: A candid look at the life of a  military caregiver teen.

This program is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project® to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.


Show Notes:

Hidden Heroes:


Kris Rotenberry is an 18-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland. While his father Chuck was active- duty U.S. Marine Corps, the family moved 11 times over the course of Chuck’s 12-year career, followed by two more in the reserve at Quantico, Virginia. While deployed to Afghanistan, he was injured by an IED, causing a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which was not diagnosed until after his symptoms and behaviors began to impact his marriage to high school sweetheart, Liz, and their family’s well-being. As the oldest son of four kids, Liz relies on Kris to help care for his younger siblings so she could leave the house to run errands. The responsibilities of caregiving cause Kris to become anxious and hypersensitive to his father’s moods, and he has developed secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. Liz could see the changes in her son’s mood as he would often become distant. She said he shared the same traumatic stare as her husband during bad memories of war. One day, Liz found Kris in his room, shortly after he attempted to take his own life by hanging. Kris has entered therapy, which has greatly helped his wellbeing.

Kris shares that being a military caregiver kid is an entirely unique experience compared to children who do not live the sort of life caregiving entails. It requires mental and emotional strength to overcome daily challenges. He believes it has taught him lessons and skills he can use in his future and has shaped him into recognizing the needs of others. Kris recently graduated from high school and is interested in pursuing a career in trade. He has a real talent for working with his hands and loves mechanical design. He has made health a priority, and the gym is his safe space to release any emotional or mental weight. Kris has grown into an incredible young man, and he’d tell you that his past has made him into a stronger person.


Elizabeth Rotenberry, Liz, is a military caregiver for her husband, a USMC Wounded Warrior of Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom Veteran. As an Elizabeth Dole Fellow Alumna, Liz works to advocate not only for herself and her family, but for all Military and Veteran Caregivers. Liz joined the Elizabeth Dole Foundation as their Caregiver Community Program Coordinator and is now the Foundation’s Fellows Program Manager.

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