Student Wanda Ickes Earns National Recognition for Role as Military Caregiver


posted October 20, 2017

Pictured, from left: Samuel Ickes USAR, Wanda Ickes, Sen. Robert Casey, actor Ryan Phillippe, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Susan Collins.

Wanda Ickes, a Pitt-Johnstown communication major, is a military caregiver of national distinction.

Her work on behalf of her husband Sam, a former U.S. Army Ranger, has earned her national recognition and the opportunity to speak to the United States Congress as an advocate for veterans’ support.

In October, Ickes travels to Georgia to be presented with a scholarship from the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving by former First Lady Rosalyn Carter.  

In November, she will go to Washington, D.C., as a Dole Fellow of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, to meet with senators to promote legislation that supports veterans and caregivers.

This past summer, she spoke at the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., as a Pennsylvania Dole Fellow on behalf of Military caregivers. She was invited by Sens. Bob Casey and Susan Collins.

“It was an honor to do this and, I must say, very humbling,” she said. She testified along with Sen. Elizabeth Dole, two other caregivers, and celebrity Ryan Phillippe.

Ickes was named the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s 2016 Dole Caregiver Fellow for Pennsylvania. She was recognized for having demonstrated persistence and ingenuity as an advocate for her husband Sam Ickes, who suffered traumatic brain injuries during his service.

The foundation supports military and veteran caregivers, strengthening services through innovation, research and collaboration. 

According to a Feb. 21, 2016, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat story, Ms. Ickes took action after her husband, Sam Ickes, suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2011 that left the former Army Ranger and military police officer disabled to the point where he is unemployable and needs constant attention.

“They were releasing him to go back to the Reserve,” said Ms. Ickes. “He’d be forgotten. I was not going to let that happen. I, as the spouse, had more clout than he did. There is nothing they can do to me.”

She said she used a barrage of phone calls and correspondence to gain the attention of a U.S. senator’s office and then convinced the Army to properly evaluate and treat her husband. 

These efforts gained the attention of the national organization dedicated to supporting caregivers of veterans. The fellowship program selects military and veteran caregivers who have volunteered to serve as advocates and ambassadors for those caring for wounded and ill service members and veterans, the foundation says.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is marking its 90th anniversary well as the 50th year of the campus in its Richland Township location. Pitt-Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.