Memorial Day: A Time to Reflect, Remember, and Support
NHPCO Encourages Americans to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day is an opportunity for Americans to remember those who have lost their lives in defense of our country and to offer support to grieving family and loved ones. U.S. Veterans may be mourning brothers and sisters in arms who were lost during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2014, Don Buska, a WWII Veteran and hospice patient from Montana, had the chance to travel to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight. He made the journey with his son, visiting the memorials built to honor the sacrifices that he and so many others have made for this nation. Buska was able to reflect and remember those he served with who were lost in battle. His trip was chronicled by video for the Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice public awareness campaign. This journey, made possible by Honor Flight and the hospice that cared for Buska, meant the world to him; just hours after he returned home to Montana, Buska died at the age of 86 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
On a national day of observance, like Memorial Day, emotions may be heightened. This is a natural part of grieving and calls for our compassion and support.
“Our Veterans deserve support and recognition of their service and the losses they may have experienced,” said J. Donald Schumacher, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s president and CEO. “Memorial Day can be a time to reach out to acknowledge all they’ve given and celebrate our national pride.”
Supporting those around us can be as simple as spending time with someone that may be alone, arranging a trip to the cemetery or to a community event of remembrance. Simply lending an ear or holding a hand can be an important way to acknowledge a loss or to honor someone’s contribution to our nation.
For the past five years, NHPCO’s We Honor Veterans program has helped equip hospice programs across the country with the right tools to serve our Veteran population. Created in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, this pioneering program encourages the hospice team to ask Veterans about their military service as they near the end of life, listen with compassion to their recollections, and acknowledging their service in a number of ways. It also pairs Veteran patients with hospice volunteers who are Veterans themselves. For many vets, the toll of losing comrades in battle re-emerges at the end-of-life. Speaking with a fellow Veteran can have a cathartic effect, bringing greater peace and closure after the horrors of war, even decades past.
As Don Buska’s son Jeff said after that final journey with his father, “We learned things about our dads and heard stories from others that haven’t been told in years. We all have so much to be thankful for; for all the men and women who served this country, and are serving now.”
To learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, visit www.wehonorveterans.org.
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