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A Special Veteran ‘Thank You’ at End of Life

A texture of reverence filled the room. Fibers of love, honor and respect wrapped snugly around the 79-year-old Army veteran. Smooth notes of the national anthem permeated the air. Words of recognition knitted the past to the present.

It was a solemn yet soothing occasion as Art Staubach’s family and Hospice of Cincinnati team members gathered to honor his military service during a personalized pinning ceremony at his Amelia, Ohio, home. Meaningful moments wove memories for Staubach’s family and provided comfort as they faced goodbye.

“The whole family was moved by what was occurring,” said Lori Baker, Staubach’s daughter. “There was not a dry eye in the house for sure. It was extremely emotional and just an incredible experience for all to be there together and honor my dad.”

The pinning ceremony is just one example of how Hospice of Cincinnati honors and addresses the unique end-of-life needs of veterans through its We Honor Veterans partnership. The pioneering program is an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Baker appreciated how Hospice of Cincinnati team members came together to honor her father. “The hospice team was phenomenal,” she said. “They knew from the beginning how important his military service was to him. It was just humbling for him to see all those people there.”

Hospice of Cincinnati serves an average of 1,100 veterans each year — nearly 25% of its patient population — according to Julie Alley, Hospice of Cincinnati social worker and veterans service liaison.

“Part of giving veterans the best possible care and end-of-life experience is understanding their needs and supporting them in a way that’s meaningful,” Alley said. Acknowledging and honoring their service is one of these ways, especially for Vietnam veterans.

“For this group, the pinning ceremonies are basically a welcome home or a ‘thank you’ they never received,” she explained. “For them to be thanked for the sacrifices they made helps them find meaning and closure.”

And then there was the salute. Slow. Deliberate. Genuine. Cutting through a silence heard only by the heart.

“There was a military nurse there who served, and he saluted my father,” Baker said, pausing to steady her voice. “It meant a lot.”

Case management nurse Rob Heberly, who served three years active duty in the Army in the early ’90s, felt honored to be part of Staubach’s ceremony.

“It was one of the most meaningful and touching ceremonies I’ve attended,” Heberly said. “What touched me the most was when we went into the home, the entire family was geared up. You could tell they wanted this to be a special thing for Mr. Staubach. This was their desire and our intention.”

Heberly has attended more than 10 pinning ceremonies, many for Vietnam veterans.

“When I started doing these ceremonies, I realized most of these veterans did not come home to yellow ribbons and parades and positive things,” he said. “I render a salute because I feel it’s the ultimate way to tell them their service was appreciated.

“So, I thanked Mr. Staubach and welcomed him home.”

In addition to pinning ceremonies, Hospice of Cincinnati also engages in these veteran services and activities:

  • Specialized, veteran-focused training and support for team members and volunteers
  • Assistance to veterans and their families in accessing services and benefits offered by the VA
  • Veteran-to-veteran support through a growing team of veteran volunteers who provide companionship and, when desired, an outlet for patients’ personal stories of war or service
  • Specialized training in addressing post-traumatic stress issues that can impact care
  • Flag plantings on Veterans Day to recognize veterans served by HOC in the last 12 months
  • Memorial Day ceremonies to recognize those who’ve given their lives in service to their country
  • Recognition ceremonies for volunteers and team members who are veterans

 

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