Richard and Sherry Whitford by the “Table for One” they arrange every Veterans  Day at the Sturgill Hospice Care Center.

Honoring Our Veterans

My husband, Richard and I, are passionate about HPH Hospice and have been involved in nearly all aspects of its volunteer program. However, we’re both drawn to the agency’s We Honor Veterans program, which began in 2011 and is now hundreds of volunteers strong. You see, Richard is a Vietnam era veteran and I am a huge military supporter.  Being involved with veterans and their loved ones through hospice provides a powerful way to say thank you to the brave men and women who have sacrificed much so that we can be free.

Since April 2013, Richard and I have had the privilege of being involved in literally hundreds of hospice pinnings. This involves providing the veteran with a customized certificate, a We Honor Veterans pin and a star. The back of the star reads: “I am part of our American flag that has flown over a home in Florida. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”

Each pinning is simple, beautiful and unique. Because we are also 11th Hour volunteers,   Richard and I are on call to be at bedside of actively dying HPH Hospice patients. We never miss the opportunity to say thank you to our veterans.

Touched by the Ceremonies to Honor Veterans

Families are so touched and grateful for the pinning ceremonies. A few times, we’ve made visits to honor a patient but not everyone in the family has been able to be present. So, imagine how wonderful we feel when family members ask if we can return and repeat the ceremony when everyone can be there. Of course, we say yes! During the pinnings, patients will often share short stories about what happened during their years of military service – stories that their loved ones may have never heard before.

Perhaps one of our most touching moments occurred when Richard and I did a pinning for a patient who was not responsive. The family was there, but because the patient was near death, we were talking primarily to the family. The patient was wearing a U.S. Marines cap, and Richard leaned over to place the veteran’s pin on it, stating aloud how grateful he was for the gentleman’s many years of military service.

As he saluted the patient, Richard said: “From one veteran to another, I salute you, sir.” The patient then saluted Richard in return!  Everyone started to cry, but they were tears of joy.

Moments like these are priceless. When we’ve been asked by family members to attend or participate in their loved one’s funeral on behalf of HPH Hospice, we are deeply touched. And, it’s a huge honor for the family to ask us to write and deliver the eulogy.

On Veterans Day and on other significant military occasions throughout the year, Richard and I arrange a “table for one” in the dining room at the Sturgill Hospice Care Center in Brooksville to honor and remember our POW/MIA.

We give thanks for our veterans and their families, and are grateful for all the wonderful men and women, veterans and non-veterans, for whom we’ve met during our volunteer service.

Let them never be forgotten.

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