Hospices help dying vets come to terms with war

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November 10, 2013 10:20:18 AM PST
A special program is underway at hospices in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys and nationwide, to better honor veterans in their final days.

The Hospice of Philadelphia, in East Falls, is one of those groups taking part in the 'We Honor Veterans' initiative. It has been given the top Level 4 designation.

When veterans enter the hospice, they're given pins and certificates recognizing their service.

Volunteers who are also vets talk with them, to put them at ease.

"They have someone that they have something in common with.They have someone that they feel more comfortable with, that would really understand what they've been through, how they've been through it," says Donna Geiger, chaplain supervisor at the Hospice of Philadelphia.

Geiger says vets in conflicts like Vietnam, that were unpopular with the American public, or where there were also heavy casualties to civilians, can find it hard to come to terms with their wartime actions.

Geiger recalls one recent Vietnam vet.

"He was concerned about his faith, and what was going to happen to him when he did die," she says.

She continued, "We were able to help him understand that he was a faithful person and that his gifts for his country as well as he mattered, and he was loved."

Counselors at hospices in the 'We Honor Vets' program are prepared for those difficult discussions, such as about PTSD.

She says the emphasis is: "To be able to accept that they did what they were supposed to do, what they were called to do, to serve this nation, to be able to protect our freedom."

Sometimes, the hospices also connect vets with the resources to fulfill final wishes.

It may be as simple as listening to favorite music from their youth.

Often, it is to help the vets get medals they earned, but never received.

Or it may be a a bigger wish.

Earlier this years, Some veterans went on an honor flight to Washington, to see the World War 2 Memorial.

Right now, 1 in 4 dying americans is a vet.


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