Instead of getting down when life got tough, Patti Katter chose to use her voice to push on toward success and inspire others to do the same.
No matter what life’s circumstances present, Patti Katter sticks to her philosophy to find strength amid strife.
“I want people to understand that we have all trials in life, but we can overcome them,” says Katter, Lakewood Ranch resident, military wife and mother of three (grown) kids.
It is a message that resonates with her podcast audience worldwide. Katter is the host of a weekly podcast, “Wake Up with Patti,” which after just four months of its inception now broadcasts inspirational interviews to listeners in more than 34 states and 13 countries.
“She’s a very positive, uplifting person,” says recent podcast guest Maria Crider, a fellow military wife. “You know how people start the beginning of the year with the ‘new year, new me’ idea? Well, that’s Patti all year. She’s constantly doing things to help others improve themselves.”
Katter’s personal journey, however, has been an arduous one. Although she would never bring it up in casual conversation, Patti has been caregiver to her husband, Ken, a combat veteran, for the past 13 years.
“I try not to focus on being a caregiver because I am lot more than that to [him],” she says.
When Patti met Ken, he was transitioning from the Marine Corps to work as a Michigan police officer. The married couple settled in Bridgeport Township, Mich., where Ken was an honored police officer. But in 2005, Ken felt called to reenter the military, enlist in the Army and relocate the family to Fort Bragg, N.C. Less than a year into a 15-month deployment to Iraq, which started in 2006, Ken was wounded when his armored vehicle ran over an explosive device and left him with brain trauma.
“We knew a little bit about his wounds, at first,” Patti says. “He stayed in Iraq with his unit after the injury because so many of the guys had been killed and lost limbs, and they needed as many men there as they could get. There were over 100 in his unit injured, and 23 were killed.”
Upon his return to Fort Bragg, Patti encouraged Ken to see a doctor about short-term memory loss and seizures. At the end of 2007, Ken was diagnosed with a moderate-to-severe brain injury and told by a military neurologist that his condition would worsen over time. In 2010, Ken was medically retired from the army, but so far, through continued occupational therapy and medication, Ken’s condition has defied the odds.
“The goal is to keep him stable,” says Patti, who accompanies her husband to doctors’ appointments and long distance therapy retreats as well as manages his medications and the household.
Patti has not just embraced her role as a wife and care partner, but she’s also taken it to the next level. For more than 10 years now, she has been actively helping veterans with recovery and advocating for veteran caregiver benefits on a local and national level.
“During the Obama administration, the Wounded Warrior Project (a charity and veterans’ service organization) sent me to D.C., and I went to the White House,” Patti says. “There are over 5.5 million military caregivers in the U.S., and our main goal was to influence leaders to accommodate military caregivers more.”
Patti’s advocacy means she played a big part in a successful outcome —legislation offering a caregiver stipend to those responsible for the continued care for veterans, something that did not exist prior to 2009.
Building on that momentum, in 2015 Patti applied for and won the Elizabeth Dole Fellowship, a campaign to help military families. She held that fellowship through 2016 as well. Patti says it took a few years, but within the past year, the stipend was opened to pre-9/11 caregivers, as well.
Patti is not new to podcasting either. She’s been podcasting for military nonprofits for 12 years and is the co-host of “The Decision Hour,” a podcast dedicated to highlighting everyday heroes, which she’s been doing for two years. Last year, however, she decided it was time to expand her outreach.
“I wanted to start interviewing civilians and doing my own show, using my podcast to bridge the huge gap between military nonprofits and regular people.”
“Wake Up with Patti” has already grown beyond her expectations.
“It’s unbelievable,” she says. “I’ve literally been able to help hundreds, maybe thousands, of veterans. I don’t want my experiences to be for nothing. I believe that when you go through a really crappy time in your life, it can be turned around for the good.”
And if that isn’t enough, she’s actively fundraising for nonprofit Camp Comeback through a dedicated campaign to raise money to purchase a boat for veteran Vladik Zalevskiy to run deep sea fishing expeditions for veterans as a means to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Nowhere else will you find a more authentic, results-oriented person with the energy and drive to move people or an organization toward successful outcomes,” says Dan Dwyer, a retired Army veteran and Patti’s business mentor. “She is beautiful inside and out.”