For Vietnam combat veteran David Powell, it is a privilege and an honor to say a final thank you and give one final salute to fellow veterans who are dying at Tucson Medical Center’s hospice, Peppi’s House, or in hospice care at a home.
Many of the veterans find it hard to fathom that they would be honored by the We Honor Vets program: They were just doing their duty, they insist.
Others, some of whom did not come home to a thank you, particularly returning from Vietnam or the so-called “forgotten war” in Korea, are moved to tears. Some of them haven’t even shared details of their service with family – but when they see another coming in uniform, to hang a flag and express their gratitude, it opens doors. Here’s someone who understands.
“For me, it’s part of a spiritual journey to be with them at this time,” said Powell, who had cared for veterans as a volunteer chaplain when he learned about TMC’s program, which will honor an estimated 300 veterans this year. We Honor Veterans is an awareness campaign, designed to recognize that veterans often have different medical and spiritual challenges, and developed in collaboration with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Veterans are honored with certificates of appreciation, lapel pins, American flags and other tokens of gratitude, such as pillowcases or quilts in patriotic design.
Lt. Col. D.A. Falkner, a former Air Force veteran, said while it is important to fly a flag on Veterans Day and Memorial Day to commemorate those who have served, he is grateful for the opportunity to forge more personal connections. “I just appreciate being able to thank them directly for their patriotism and service to their country,” he said.
Falkner said there are many ways to show appreciation to veterans:
- Active duty military members in particular are needed to perform final honor presentations to veterans in hospice
- Identify your local veteran organizations and see if there are ways to donate or volunteer
- Attend community events that commemorate service
- Mobilize church and school groups to write thank you letters to members currently serving
- Thank a veteran close to you
- Thank a veteran you see in the community
Program volunteers are considering an extension of the program to honor veterans in care homes, before they need hospice services. “This is where my heart is,” said Powell. “It is such a powerful program, that we wanted to be able to advance its reach into the community to honor veterans before they reach the end of their lives.”
Go to Sharing Memories to download a TMC Hospice Life Story Book, where you can create a family treasure of memories and experiences of your loved ones. You can also use the form to sign up for our quarterly newsletter or get more information about volunteering.