Honoring veterans in hospice care

Posted by Linda Rockwell, We Honor Veterans Program Coordinator

Honoring veterans in hospice care
JourneyCare's Veteran Volunteers

For Veterans Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is honoring our veteran patients and celebrating the volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to our patients, patient families and the staff throughout our agency. We are so grateful for our generous volunteers every day of the year!

It’s estimated that one out of every four dying Americans is a veteran.

This Veterans Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is very proud to be one of more than 2,400 hospice organizations in the United States participating in the We Honor Veterans initiative to honor and care for veterans and their families. Started by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) at the request of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the intent of the program is to identify when a veteran is enrolled in hospice care, connect veterans and their families with any benefits for which they may be eligible, and take this final opportunity to honor and thank those who served and sacrificed so much.

Last year JourneyCare cared for nearly 1,200 veterans across our 10-county service area. Each veteran patient in our care has the opportunity to be honored by a JourneyCare veteran volunteer – a volunteer and military veteran who visits patients who are also veterans. A brief but meaningful pinning ceremony is performed, and a certificate of honor is presented by a member of our Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council, which engages veteran-centric event planning, training and educational opportunities.

What is this unique volunteer experience like?

According to one U.S. Marine Corps veteran volunteer, each volunteer experience with a veteran is different. “Sometimes the veteran is alert and able to engage in conversation, other times the veteran may drift in and out of sleep, but the ceremony is meaningful for the family members who are there.” He has observed that even veterans with advanced dementia often respond to hearing their military service song or will return a salute.

A U.S. Army veteran volunteer shares this story: “It was my first pinning at the Barrington in-patient unit, and I was nervous. I had never spoken before to this family about their beloved Navy veteran. The staff had given me some information about the veteran and I had included that in my pinning ceremony. Just before we were ready to start I found out that the veteran’s oldest son was going to be in the room. Then I was informed that this son was a Navy SEAL. Suddenly the pressure went up. I did the pinning and left the room, only to hear someone running down the hall behind me. This hulk of a man grabbed me in a bear hug, lifting me off the ground.  His eyes were full of tears as he thanked me profusely. So were mine.”

Another U.S. Army veteran volunteer talks about how few “attaboys” are given by the military, and how important it is to acknowledge a veteran’s service, even if it’s very late in his or her life. He has seen veterans shed tears at his simple ceremony, and make comments like, “I can’t believe I’m getting this.” His favorite pinning story is of a 94-year-old female Marine, whose daughter and three granddaughters were present for her ceremony. At the end of the ceremony he presented her with a hand-crocheted flag blanket, made by one of JourneyCare’s Knit Wit volunteers, and the woman burst into tears. 

“You can’t help but feel good,” the JourneyCare veteran volunteer explains. “I really like the ride home – I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile. It’s a feeling you can’t buy”. 

To learn more about JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans and all the special ways this program helps veteran patients and their families throughout the year, please visit our website.

If you are a veteran interested in volunteering, or know a veteran who might be willing to spend a few hours a month visiting veteran hospice patients and performing honoring ceremonies, learn more and apply on our website, or contact Linda Rockwell at 847-556-1778 or lThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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