As we celebrate Memorial Day, one out of every four Americans who die today is a veteran who has served our country. For most veterans who are entering the sunset of their lives, poor health can be a battle all its own as they are struggling to find peace for their soul. Many of these brave men and women never have even been thanked for the sacrifices they made.
Hospice services can provide end-of-life comfort for those entering life’s final journey. Veterans, however, require a unique approach because this cherished population often carries a burden that requires a caregiver to understand and support their need to reconcile many different struggles as they move from one season of their life into the next.
Most soldiers enter military service with bright hopes of defending a country they love and protecting their family and loved ones. However, most were unprepared for what they had to see and do in the name of freedom. Some have had to helplessly sit by and watch their comrades die right next to them and now wonder how they were chosen to survive. Others have had to kill in the effort to defend and now are forever haunted by the face of the son or daughter whose life ended at their hands.
Veterans can feel isolated and abandoned. For those who served in Vietnam especially, they were greeted with hate and disrespect when they returned home from doing something that should have been seen as heroic. The betrayal of this sentiment cannot be reconciled, and many soldiers have never been told a simple “thank you” for what they have done.
This Memorial Day, please take the time to acknowledge a veteran you know. As you look into their eyes to say thank you, understand that those eyes have seen more than they ever wanted to shake and the hand you shake has protected you from so much more than you will ever know. Stand in awe, because right before you is a courageous human being, a patriot and someone who forever will be a hero.
Director of hospice operations and administrator, AseraCare