MIAMI COUNTY — Veterans in Miami County can receive a final honor from other men and women just like them who have sacrificed for our country.
Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County participates in the American Pride Program, which reaches out to Hospice patients who served our nation in any branch of the military. The program recognizes those veterans who are facing life-limiting illnesses and are in Hospice’s care.
The program includes a group of local veterans who volunteer with Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County who will come to the veteran to make a presentation in their honor. Wayne Melgaard, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, said volunteers will come to the home, hospital, nursing home — wherever needed to offer a presentation to a veteran.
He said volunteers can put a presentation together soon after the patient comes under Hospice care or in the last few hours of the veteran’s life, whatever is needed. Melgaard said the volunteers also have offered presentations at the veteran’s funeral if asked by the family.
“Sometimes we’ll get a call that a patient is declining and we need to go do a service today,” Melgaard said. “No matter when we do it, it’s important that we honor these veterans.
“Most of them have never had anything like this happen to them.”
During the presentation, each veteran receives a folded flag donated by local veterans’ organizations, such as the local American Legions, VFWs and Honor Flight. Veterans also receive a certificate from Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County signed by executive director Heather Bolton, an American Pride pin and a miniature flag shadowbox replica. A second pin honors Vietnam veterans, a program initiated by former President Barack Obama, said volunteer coordinator Beth Shrake. If there is a spouse, Shrake said a pin also is offered in honor of their support. New to the program is a creed card that offers the creed of each of the nation’s military branches, Shrake said, which also is read during the presentation.
“As a Hospice veteran volunteer, our veteran pinnings are meant to show the veteran that he or she is being honored and thanked by fellow veterans. Anytime I participate in a veteran’s pinning ceremony, I know that I’m in the exact place that I need to be,” said volunteer Larry Blackmore, who also volunteers with Honor Flight. “We can assure the veteran and the family, if the veteran is non-responsive, that as veteran volunteers it is our honor to show the Hospice veteran how much we respect them and thank them for their service. When families are there for our pinnings, they can realize closure knowing that their veteran has been honored and thanked by fellow veterans.”
Volunteers of the American Pride Program also go to the Dayton Veteran’s Administration once a month to visit with veterans and make presentations.
In 2017, LeVan said program volunteers pinned a total of 180 veterans locally, at the Dayton VA and during other outreach events. The numbers are then reported through the Dayton VA to a national database, she said. As part of the same program, the American Pride Veteran Memorial at the Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Hospice House, 324 Wilmington Ave., Dayton, is a commemoration that includes a computer kiosk that features pictures and stories about veterans.
Shrake stresses that the program is open to all veterans, not just those who have served in combat.
“This program is for anyone that has served. We think sometimes veterans don’t think they are worthy because they weren’t in battle,” Shrake said.
Amy LeVan, director of human resources at Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County, agrees.
“But it’s not that they weren’t in battle, it’s that they were willing to be,” LeVan said.
Melgaard said the program also is always looking for new volunteers who are willing to help honor other veterans for their contributions. Sometimes the veteran volunteers get just as much from the veteran being honored, Melgaard said.
“As a Hospice veteran volunteer I was able to do vet-to-vet visits with a World II veteran who was under Hospice care. We met a few times as his health was failing. He said he really appreciated how Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County was able to have a veteran visit with him one-on-one,” Blackmore said.
“The last time I visited with him, he told me that he was at peace, that he had faced death before and survived and that everyday since then had been a gift. Visiting with this veteran was extra-special to me, as I was able to take him on his Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., with his grandson as his guardian a few years ago.”
Shrake said the veteran volunteers also help each other.
“They’re a good support system for each other,” Shrake said. “They have a language … and experiences that unless you have served, you just don’t know.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at firstname.lastname@example.org