by Beverly Medlyn, Communications Director, Hospice of the Valley
Hospice of the Valley celebrates the lives of military veterans and first responders through volunteer programs that match volunteers with those experiences with patients who have served on the front lines.
“Honoring First Responders” trained its first group in January. The emergency, medical and law-enforcement officers will call upon hospice patients who served in the same capacity, linking kindred souls with like experiences.
The program is patterned after Hospice of the Valley’s “Saluting Our Veterans” program, established in 2011 to honor military veteran patients. More than 2,100 veterans have participated. Currently 40 volunteers representing every branch of service visit with patients, who are referred by hospice care teams.
“I enjoy so much being with these guys – they are my heroes. It’s a brotherhood of blood,” said Gale Winters, a retired Air Force veteran who volunteers for Salutes.
Stacia Ortega, Director of Volunteer Services, said first responders and military veterans share a commitment to putting others above self. They also share sometimes traumatic experiences of being in harm’s way – whether on the battlefield or an accident scene.
“These issues can come to the surface at end-of-life, and it’s comforting to talk with someone who understands what you’ve been through,” Ortega said.
Flags and pins that represent the branch of service are given to the patients by the volunteers.
“Let’s thank them on their final journey by touching their heart with our own,” said Salutes volunteer Rodney Dehmer.
Hospice of the Valley also has volunteer opportunities for home care volunteers in the Golden Corridor/Casa Grande.
For more information contact the volunteer department: 602-636-6336 or view hov.org.