Hospice of the North Coast Honors Vets Every Day, in Several Meaningful Ways …
Our March 30th “Welcome Home” Vietnam Veterans Day Celebration Will Be Very Special!
by Shelly Dew,
Director of Philanthropy, Hospice of the North Coast
Every day of the year, we at Carlsbad-based Hospice of the North Coast (HNC) are supremely honored to serve our sizable and esteemed cohort of terminally ill veterans who selflessly served our country. March 30, 2019 will be a special day, which we will devote to our second “Welcome Home” Vietnam Veterans Day celebration recognizing the heroism and sacrifice of the men and women who served in various military branches during this tumultuous conflict.
HNC is presenting the celebration, in collaboration with Veterans Association of North County (VANC) and Veterans Benefits Administration, at the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad. The event is free to vets and their families; it is our “gift” and one that we are eager to share.
We were delighted to welcome more than 300 people to our inaugural 2018 celebration. There was not an empty seat or, at times, a dry eye in the house at VANC’s spacious Oceanside facility. The overwhelming, positive response resulted in our move this year to the larger Academy setting.
Ensuring Access to Veteran-Centric Care
HNC is a Level Four We Honor Veterans (WHV) provider through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) focused on continually improving the end-of-life care veterans receive. The need in our region is significant. Some 70 percent of males in San Diego County age 65 and older are veterans. Many need or will soon need hospice care.
HNC has the organizational capacity to ensure that these folks have access to veteran-centric care. We understand the unique circumstances and needs that set veterans apart from non-military patients, and can address challenges related to their service, and its aftermath.
Our dedication begins at the top. Executive Director Sharon Lutz’s brother-in-law was a Vietnam vet who died at age 42 from renal cell cancer possibly caused by Agent Orange. She states, “Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the service vets have given. Being able to honor them, care for and about them, and share their stories as they approach the end of life is a beautiful privilege for us.”
Our WHV efforts encompass an array of programs. We are a partner in the Vietnam War Commemoration and perform poignant Honor Salutes to groups of veterans in facilities and to individuals at home.
With the help of active duty Camp Pendleton staff, a dying veteran receives a final Salute. For some Vietnam vets who returned home years ago often to jeers instead of cheers, the Salute engenders tears of joy.
A recent memorable Salute was given to a feisty nonagenarian, who thanks to HNC hospice care has been able to joyfully live out her remaining days in her comfy Carlsbad home permeated with decades of memories, including her Air Force adventure in the late 1930s. About her service, Norma Walker succinctly confided, “I enjoyed the marching exercises, but when I learned that I could rise no farther than a secretarial level and was given the choice to re-enlist or opt out, I left.”
One of HNC’s most heartwarming efforts we call Vet-to-Vet. We connect former military personnel who are hospice care volunteers (some in their 80s and 90s!) with our terminally ill vets. They share a warm bond and speak the same “language.” Even a crusty career guy will be able to unburden himself, smile, laugh and recall times both good and bad with someone he knows instinctively understands and accepts him.
We are very fortunate to present Jimmie W. Spencer, retired Army Command Sergeant Major (CSM), as our keynote speaker. Beginning in 1961, CSM Spencer devoted 32 years to active military service, including assignments with Special Forces and Ranger Units.
He currently serves as a consultant with the Vietnam War Commemoration. As we look forward to 2020 when we will celebrate four decades of providing comprehensive, compassionate hospice care to individuals, families and the community, we want people attending our March 30th event and all veterans and their families to know they can rely upon Hospice of the North Coast for programs and support that meet their specific needs. We have the expertise and the genuine desire to guide vets as we accompany them on their path toward a peaceful ending.
Please Join Our Celebration
It’s all about acceptance, and that’s what our March 30th Welcome Home celebration centers on. Acceptance is a theme of the event: accepting what you did, saw, experienced and who you are because of – not in spite of – these things.
Full details of the 10am-1pm event are at www.hospicenorthcoast.org.
In addition to a program, delicious lunch, and the opportunity to meet and mingle with fellow vets, one exciting highlight will be a live aerial parachute demonstration executed by the Black Daggers U.S. Army Special Ops.