Honoring Veterans at End of Life
For all of the social workers in the field as well as in the Inpatient Unit, one of our most special times is when we have the opportunity to offer recognition to our veterans as part of our We Honor Veterans program. All of our patients who are veterans are offered this recognition ceremony after they come onto hospice services. Casa de la Luz has been officially offering recognition ceremonies through this national program for a year and a half now, and as one of the IPU social workers, I have had the opportunity to witness this event many times.
During the short ceremony, the veteran is presented with a plaque and a token of our appreciation for his or service. Often words such as the following are read (as drafted by one of our social workers, Judith Kent):
All soldiers go into service with the hope of defending what they hold most dear: freedom, liberty, and the chance to live life joyfully among loved ones, in the security of a peaceful homeland.
We remember the human cost to each soldier, regardless of where and how he or she served. With this, we bear witness to the patriotism, devotion to duty, and courage of all veterans.
Please accept this token of our respect as an expression of American gratitude to you as one who has served to defend this dream.
We have found that these presentations are often very moving and may bring the patient and/or loved ones to tears. (Us too, sometimes!)
Recently, we had a patient who was unresponsive. When asked about an honor ceremony, the family refused it because they did not think the patient would comprehend or be able to appreciate the service. When I suggested the service could be for the family as well as the patient, they gave it some more thought and then accepted our offer. They called other family members and encouraged them to attend the brief service, scheduled for later that afternoon.
At the scheduled time, the nurse, volunteer, chaplain, and I went into the patient’s room where a large group of the patient’s family members had gathered. Words of gratitude were expressed to the patient, even though he was unable to respond. A plaque stating Casa de la Luz Hospice and Foundation is proud to honor ***** for his service in the United States Air Force and a hanging with the Air Force insignia were presented to the patient and family. The family members beamed with pride for their loved one. Afterwards, family members told the staff they were so glad they decided to accept the service because the patient had loved his time in the military, and the family knew that the patient was grateful for his presentation.
*****Name removed to protect privacy of patient and family
By Kimberly Bingham, Social Worker