Veterans Serving Veterans
For Veterans Day we asked some of our Hospice volunteers who are veterans to share about their service and their hospice volunteer work with Cascade Health. We are so privileged to work alongside these incredible people who have served our country and now use their experience to serve their fellow veterans facing the end of life.
Recently I had the honor and privilege to be at the bedside of my hospice patient, Greg*, and, assisting Hospice Social Worker Marial, give him recognition as a Veteran. On previous visits he and I had several discussions about his time of service in the Army. We had that in common since I had also served in the Army, although decades after he had. It was wonderful to share stories. We both had pride in our service to our country. On this visit, it was so touching when Marial presented him with the pin and put it on a shirt of his and we gave him the certificate of appreciation. Tears of immense gratitude filled his eyes and he could hardly put into words how much it meant to him. His smile said it all. As it turned out, shortly after we presented these things to him, he became more and more unresponsive. Our timing was perfect. This experience confirmed for me how important it is to honor our Veterans, not only during their lives, but also at the end of their lives.
“I served as a Navy Nurse during the Vietnam War stationed at Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston MA. I worked with diverse, dedicated medical officers, nurses and enlisted medial corpsmen, providing comprehensive care to Navy personnel and dependents. My experience as a military nurse has enriched my life with advanced degree, life-long friendships and numerous career opportunities. I look forward to honoring other veterans as a volunteer at the Hospice House.”
And finally, here is reflection from another of our volunteers, Frank Hotchkiss:
I enlisted the Naval Air reserve program in 1960 and was on active duty from 1961 through 1963. I am considered a Vietnam Era veteran having served my active duty in the Navy during the period prior to our combat troops having formally arrived in that country. I was an enlisted sailor and had earned my second class (E-5) rating prior to leaving active duty. Our anti-submarine aircraft squadron was located at Whidbey Island, WA, and was deployed to Kodiak, AK. Following my active duty, I continued as a Navy reservist while attending college.
As a hospice volunteer I have had the privilege of assisting five veterans to date. I profoundly appreciate their service and am humbled by their WWII tours of duty. Their respective military experiences are very interesting to me and I consistently inquire about them and learn from each vet. They are uniformly proud of their military service and are particularly proud to receive their Cascade Hospice service recognition pin and certificate. It is especially moving for me to participate in this formal recognition since I am aware of the sacrifices they have made and the bravery they have shown although always very humbly described. My current patient, on every visit, shows me the military service pin he consistently wears on his shirt and the framed military service certificate he has on an end table in his living room.
Frank is one of the newest volunteers and truly went the extra mile with the very first patient he saw. The patient was dying alone with only neighbor friends checking in on him as they were able. Frank found out that this patient’s only wish was to be buried in a cemetery near his wife. The patient had no money to pay for a funeral or burial. The neighbor friends were left in charge of dealing with matters after the patient passed and when Frank heard that this patient might not get a proper burial, he rallied to make his comrades wishes come true. Our team was able to help secure funds to make this happen, all because Frank went the extra mile to make this patient’s wishes come true. Frank continues to be a tremendous advocate for our veteran patients.
We are thankful for the service of all veterans and Cascade Health Hospice is committed to addressing their unique needs in conjunction with the We Honor Veterans program. We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the VA, designed to equip Hospices, Hospice-Veteran Partnerships and VA facilities to recognize and meet the unique needs of veterans and their families as they face the end of life. Today, 1 in 4 Americans facing end of life is a veteran. The program focuses on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment. If you have any questions about Cascade Hospice or our We Honor Veterans program, please give us a call at 541-228-3050.
*Name changed for privacy purposes