TMC Hospice: Honoring Our Veterans

TMC Hospice volunteers Lewis Jones, center, and Dave Falkner honor a veteran and hospice patient for her service to her country.

When Lewis Jones came on for his shift at Peppi’s House, staff let him know that one of the hospice patients was a veteran and had been honored for his military service earlier in his stay. When the man died later that day surrounded by his large extended family, which included active-duty military, Jones joined with another volunteer to drape the unit’s American flag quilt over the body. As the mortuary came to take him away, the pair, themselves veterans, stood silently saluting as the patient was wheeled out of the building.

The family and staff were overwhelmed with emotion seeing such a show of respect and appreciation for this veteran. Jones stayed to comfort some of the family members, giving that special touch he gives all the time that makes him memorable to everyone.

Today, on Veterans Day, the staff, volunteers and supporters of TMC Hospice honor those who have served our country. TMC Hospice provides care for close to 300 U.S. veterans each year. With the need only growing, we partner with We Honor Veterans and the Hospice Veterans Partnership to better care for, reach out to and honor veterans needing end-of-life care.

Earlier this fall, Jones was one of 200 hospice volunteers across the nation nominated for the 2018 Volunteers Are the Foundation of Hospice award by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. While he wasn’t one of the top winners, he’s still a winner at TMC Hospice.

“Out of many volunteers, Jones is the one everyone talks about. His hugs, smiles and greeting help uplift the staff every time he volunteers,” said Krista Durocher, volunteer coordinator for TMC Hospice, noting that November is also Hospice Awareness Month.

Jones has been a TMC Hospice volunteer since 2010, logging nearly 1,100 hours of service in that time. He started out filing medical records and then was recruited to the bereavement team making weekly calls to families. He started helping with quarterly celebrations of life and eventually became the lead volunteer for these events.

In 2016, this versatile volunteer migrated from bereavement calls to the Tuck In program. Each Thursday, Jones gets a list of homecare patients who are still in their homes (vs. a care facility or nursing home) and checks in to make sure they’re OK and have enough supplies to get through the weekend. Not only do the patients appreciate the calls, but the weekend on-call staff appreciates the reduction in urgent calls for supplies, allowing them to better focus on symptom control and other pressing needs.

“When we started its journey with We Honor Veterans a few years back,” Durocher said, “we knew right away that Jones would be an excellent person to help grow this program in our community.” Jones met with various veteran organizations in town and made invaluable connections as his love for honoring veterans began to blossom.

Hospice patients who are veterans are offered the opportunity for an honoring. During this ceremony, a patient is presented with a certificate of appreciation, a lapel pin and a small American flag as small tokens of gratitude for their service.
Jones, being a Vietnam veteran, has a soft spot for other Vietnam veterans and especially loves to conduct those honorings.

“At every one of those honorings,” Durocher said, “he makes a point to say ‘welcome home’ to the veteran and explains to those in the room why it’s especially important to say that to a Vietnam veteran.”

From all of us at TMC Hospice to all our veterans – including Lewis Jones — thank you for your service.

If you’re a veteran interested in helping honor other veterans or are interested in volunteering with TMC Hospice find out more.

Ceremony honors service of two local WWII veterans

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461