In 1956, Ed Schuck was deployed to Panama with the United States Army, working in communications. “We got the messages in from the White House” and other places, Schuck recently told KAAL-TV. He shared that story, along with other memories from his time in the service, during a pinning ceremony organized by We Honor Veterans, a national organization that partners with local hospice programs to “accompany and guide” veterans “through their life stories toward a more peaceful ending.” Since partnering with the organization in 2011, Mayo Clinic Hospice volunteers have provided “compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment” to 170 veterans. The program’s volunteers are veterans themselves.
“Our veteran volunteers love any chance they get to thank a fellow vet,” Amy Stelpflug, volunteer coordinator for the Mayo Clinic Hospice program, tells us. During the We Honor Veterans recognition events, veterans are presented with a flag pin specific to their branch of service, a framed certificate and a pillowcase made from fabric representing their branch of service. They also receive gratitude, respect and, perhaps most significantly, a final salute. Chet Daniel, a Mayo Hospice volunteer who helped bring We Honor Veterans to Mayo Clinic, told KAAL that “I love pinning, but I love saluting” the vets even more. “There’s a special bond between all veterans in the salute,” which signifies “we honor you, and it’s an honor returned.”
For Schuck, the pinning ceremony “was quite an honor” and one he “really appreciated.” Many of his family members attended the ceremony, taking pictures and sharing memories and laughs. The pinning ceremonies are “a great time for families to get together and celebrate” says Stelpflug, who adds that “in hospice, we’re always looking for ways to celebrate a person’s life and this is a great opportunity.” And during the ceremonies, we're told some veterans pull out old uniforms and photos to share with their families. “It’s really fun to see,” Stelpflug tells us, adding that the staff and volunteers who attend the events “feel very honored to be there” and “share the moment.”
In addition to We Honor Veterans ceremonies, Daniel and other veteran volunteers also spend time with hospice patients who want to meet one-on-one “to talk or process their service time” with a fellow vet who understands what they have experienced. The conversations can help veterans “let go of feelings” and “memories they have been carrying for many years,” Stelpflug tells us, and to “make their peace with the world.”
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