When TMC Hospice volunteer and retired Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Falkner got the assignment to recognize a local resident as part of the We Honor Veterans program, he called to see if anyone else was a veteran. That’s how veterans Leonard Groh, 93, and Clara Robinson, 98, became the center of attention one morning this week at their assisted living home in central Tucson.
During World War II, Groh was a mechanic with the Army Air Corps, working on B-17s in Greenland. Though he wasn’t in a combat unit, he and his comrades would at times face the perilous task of going on recovery missions into a cold sea, including riding skis to get to stranded crewmen.
Robinson, a member of the Woman’s Air Corp, likes to say she was in for the duration – she joined as soon as possible after the WAC was created in May 1942. She notes with pride that the last digits of her Army serial number were 045. She was in Paris when the war ended in Europe and in Japan when the war ended there. She left the military in 1948.
Both veterans were honored with a short ceremony where they were presented with a plaque that reads: “We pay special tribute to you for your military service to American and for advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all.” In addition, they received a lapel pin, a small flag, a patriotic quilt and a World War II Veteran decal.
In addition to Falkner, other service members honoring the veterans included SMSgt. Rose Mardula with the 162nd Air National Guard, Specialist David Powell formerly with the U.S. Army and CMSgt. Mike Flake with the Air Force Reserves.
After providing the mementos to the veterans, the service members stood together, offering a last tribute salute to them both. Many people in attendance were visibly moved by the ceremony, including Groh’s wife, who lives with him in the same care home, and his two children.
The impetus behind the We Honor Veterans program is to provide simple acts of gratitude at the end of life to provide a final opportunity for veterans to know their service was not in vain and that they are appreciated.
At TMC Hospice, alone, more than 300 veterans are cared for each year, with the need only growing. Presently, according to the national World War II Museum, almost 500 World War II veterans are dying each day with only about 855,000 veterans remaining out of the 16 million who served. And this doesn’t include service members from other eras.
Click to learn more about the TMC Hospice We Honor Veterans program and how to get involved.