“Show me Guam,” the feisty 81-year-old man with a full head of hair ordered his smartphone.
“You’ve gotta know how to talk to it, Pop,” quipped the younger man sitting at the kitchen table.
Daniel Myers, Community Home Health hospice patient, passed away Veterans Day 2013
The father, Daniel Myers, and his son Bob were reminiscing about their service days, telling war stories and “things that happened to us that nobody would understand.”
Throwing out terms such as camaraderie and Esprit de corps, Daniel explained, “We’ve got a lot in common even though we were in different times, different places.”
Looking distant and seeming to hear something others could not, Daniel made a crunching sound, explaining he could still hear the sound he and his fellow soldiers produced while marching through gravel on that island of Guam.
Daniel Myers served our country in the Army from 1949-53, most notably during the often overlooked Korean War. He worked seven-days- a-week in the transportation department as a dispatcher, driving delivery vehicles or honing his skills as a mechanic.
It was at Camp Atterbury where he met the love of his life, Ann Helen Belch. “I met her out cruising the streets and we started hanging out together. I got discharged and we got married and moved to Cleveland.” The 53-year marriage produced eight children, three following in their father’s military footsteps.
“I remember a lot of it like it was yesterday,” he says with a gleam in his eyes.
Though he can remember the memories like yesterday, his body is now in a different place. Myers battles serious lung and heart problems, and was placed on hospice at the beginning of the year.
A part of our history, Myers is making it again as one of the first veterans to be honored by a program Community Home Health hospice has implemented to honor those who have selflessly served our country.
The idea to honor the brave came from Mary Durazo, Community Home Health’s director of hospice—a veteran herself. She and her team formed a veterans counsel, and developed a plan to build upon partnerships with Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers.
“Anyone who served in a conflict is very humble,” explains Durazo, “so we wanted to do something to respect their privacy, but let them know we appreciate them.”
A military challenge coin is given to honor veterans in hospice
The hospice team decided upon a certificate signed by General Stewart Goodwin of the Indiana War Memorial, and a military challenge coin, which traditionally bears an organization’s insignia or emblem and symbolizes unit affiliation and brotherhood.
Historically, the coins are given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale. They are also collected by service members and may be presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of the unit.
Upon hospice admission, a patient is asked veteran status. If yes, an American flag image is placed in the patient’s chart. The patient is made aware of the certificate and coin, and can choose to receive the recognition in the home by a comrade of his or her branch, or, like Myers, through a special ceremony at the Indiana War Memorial.
Friends, family and hospice staff gathered on September 4, 2013, as General Goodwin presented Myers with his due honors onsite at the Indiana War Memorial. In addition to the challenge coin and certificate, Myers also received a special brick from Flanner and Buchanan to be placed around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in his honor.
“He was like a teenager getting ready to go to prom,” smiled his youngest son, Bob, who has taken his father in with his declining health. “He was nervous, jittery and really excited about it.”
In his presentation, General Goodwin spoke about veterans deserving recognition while they’re still alive rather than in passing.
And, fitting for Myers, who is quick to point out he was never in combat, General Goodwin said he’s never looked at a roster on a military base and said “this job wasn’t important or didn’t need to be filled.”
For Durazo, honoring our veteran hospice patients while living was an easy decision. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says, “because many of the veterans came from a conflict that was not widely recognized positively by our nation. I think recognizing who they are helps them to fight for their rights.”
“We’ve been going to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument since we were little kids ice skating,” says Bob, “and it’s fascinating to know something that has been there for so long has a brick with my dad’s name on it.” Comparing it to the Vietnam Wall, Bob says it’s “pretty emotional for their family.”
“I’m not one for attention, but if I can be the start of something big,” trailed Daniel, “you’re running out of veterans.”
Community Home Health Hospice began the veterans program in September 2012. Documentation now reminds staff to ask if a patient is a veteran. And throughout Community Health Network, any patient, not just in hospice, will now have a flag on their chart, giving veteran distinction wherever care is given.
General Goodwin has extended an offer for hospice patients to have their visitation or funeral at the War Memorial at no charge, and will coordinate an honor guard for funeral services. A memory paving brick can be purchased and engraved with a loved one’s name for placement around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Make each day count
Though it may be hard to face, when the end is near, Community Home Health is available to provide personalized, patient- and family-centered hospice care for both infants and adults.
Hospice care is for anyone with a life-limiting illness and whose life expectancy may be six months or less (providing the disease runs its natural course). Hospice is not just for patients with cancer, but for any terminal illness.
Our goal is to relieve pain and other symptoms, while providing emotional, spiritual and grief support for patients, family and caregivers.
Hospice care is individualized and intermittently provided around-the-clock in a patient’s home, assisted living, nursing home or group home. Short-term inpatient care is available in Community Health Network central Indiana hospitals.
Simply call 800-404-4852 to speak with a Community Home Health hospice team member.