Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice - Sheboygan, WI

Honoring Veterans in Hospice; It's the Least We Can Do

Honoring Veterans in Hospice; It's the Least We Can Do.
By:  Angelia Neumann
(The Sheboygan Press June 2014 MOXIE)

With Memorial Day behind us, Flag Day upon us, and Independence Day just ahead, this is a patriotic season for Americans.  Sadly, our heightened sensitivity to the sacrifices of our military service men and women is being offended by stories of poor treatment of our Veterans.  I want to share some positive stories with you and challenge you to consider what you can do.

My husband never served in the military, yet he recognizes that those who did have allowed him to enjoy freedoms and pleasures many of them forfeited, such as being there for the birth of all four of our children.  Whenever he sees a man or woman in uniform dining at a restaurant, he thanks them for their service and pays for their meal.  He feels it’s the least he can do. 

We teach our children to say “thank you” to the men and women they meet in uniform, yet we try to shelter them from the reality of what we are thanking them for.  Every one of our military service families will have a different life experience from those families who never served.  Whether they engaged in battle or not, they protect our country.  They deserve our honor and respect, today and always.

Today one out of every four dying Americans is a Veteran.  Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice gives special attention to all Veterans and their families through the We Honor Veterans hospice program.  Since launching this program a year ago, the staff has served 85 Veterans.  Each one receives special recognition from trained uniformed Veteran Volunteers through a ceremony.  A letter of recognition and appreciation is read aloud to the patient and family.  The Veteran patient is presented with a formal certificate of honor, a flag lapel pin, and a hand-crafted branch-specific Camo Quilt.  The Veteran Volunteers end their ceremony with a sincere “thank you for your service” and a salute. 

In addition to the heart-warming ceremony, all of the hospice staff is trained to respond to the unique end-of-life needs of Veterans and their families.  They are educated on war-era specific life experiences, health risks, and complications commonly faced by Veterans.  This education equips the staff to respond to unspoken needs.  This level of care is priceless to the families.  For the hospice staff, it’s simply a matter of learning and caring.  It’s the least they can do.

No matter what level or length of service the patient gave our country, they all count as Veterans deserving of honor in the We Honor Veterans program.  Last week, the Volunteer Veterans honored their first female World War II Veteran in her home.  After watching her older brothers enlist in service, she followed after them serving as a nurse’s assistant. She said it was the least she could do.

What is the least you can do?  Can you buy a meal, say thank you, sew a quilt, or volunteer to salute a dying Veteran?  Whatever it is, I urge you to do it.

Angelia Neumann is director of development and communications at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice in Sheboygan Falls.