What My Hospice means is different to each staff member, patient, and family we serve. For Greg, it means an opportunity to honor Veterans.

A defining moment for me was when I recognized the vital importance and rewarding experience the We Honor Veterans program is to our local Veterans.  One of our volunteers was providing a We Honor Veterans flag-pinning ceremony to a 93-year-old patient, who appeared to be comatose, with his 91-year-old wife at his side in our Hospice House and their two adult children seated in the room.

A nurse and I were also blessed to be in the room during the special ceremony.  After our Veteran volunteer completed the script to honor the patient for his service to the U.S. Army, they saluted the patient while standing at the foot of his bed.  The patient remained silent and motionless in his bed, with his wife wiping tears from her cheeks.  This is what everyone expected to see, as the patient had not responded to outside stimuli for at least three days.

We Honor Veterans Volunteers for Hospice of the Ozarks

As the adult children and wife of the patient stood together to hug one another and thank the Veteran volunteer, nurse and myself, we all looked at the bed and what we witnessed simply brought each of us to tears and in awe. 

Slowly and deliberately, the patient began to raise his hand toward his forehead and slowly put his hand back on the bed.  The patient had just saluted the Veteran volunteer, though it took him several minutes to accomplish it.  Everyone in the room watched this special act of respect from one Veteran to another Veteran with tears and joy.  Three hours later, the patient died with his loved ones at his side, filled with pride in their hearts for the special moments made possible by our Veteran volunteer, staff and the We Honor Veterans program.

I learned a few lessons from that experience. First, never assume it’s too late to honor a person for anything special they have accomplished.  Second, it is worth every ounce of energy and every effort made to show respect, honor and love to those we serve, no matter what the physical condition is of the patient.

By Greg Wood, Executive Director of Hospice of the Ozarks
Chair, NHPCO Board of Directors