It’s never too late to thank a veteran
All his life, Lewis Woodruff was proud of his service as a United States Army Air Forces crew chief. Between 1944 and 1946, he worked on the B-17 and B-28 bombers used during WWII, sacrificing and dedicating his life to his country. After his discharge from the Army Air Forces, Lewis built a house in Southfield, where he and his wife, Helen, would spend the next seven decades raising seven children, who gave them 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Lewis lived a good life.
He enjoyed being a veteran and was a member of AMVETS and the American Legion. While he never spoke of the details, Lewis would fondly remark about his time in the service.
Ron Nitchie, a Unites States Air Force veteran and spiritual care adviser for Arbor Hospice and Hospice of Michigan, had the privilege of supporting Lewis in his final days. Coupled with his own military experience and clinical pastoral education training from the VA hospital in Detroit, Ron provides special assistance and spiritual guidance to help veteran patients, like Lewis, at the end-of-life.
Veterans who work or volunteer with hospice have the unique ability to relate and connect with other veterans at a critical time in life due to their shared military training and history. They share a cultural bond that opens a door of trust and communication, as they understand each other’s physical (war injuries) and emotional needs (survivor guilt, post-traumatic disorder, etc.).
Part of support Ron provides to veteran patients involves pinning ceremonies for members of all the military branches. When Ron learned of Lewis’ service to his country, he offered his family the opportunity to honor Lewis with an American flag pin and a certificate to honor and thank him for his service.
With Lewis in his hospital bed, located in the family room of the house he built in 1946, his wife Helen, and daughters Lori and Lisa, gathered with the HOM care team at his bedside, as Ron read the words of appreciation on the certificate aloud.
“We pay special tribute to you for your military service to America, and for advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all,” said Ron as he placed an American flag pin on Lewis’ hospital gown. Asked if he still loved his country Lewis, holding back tears through his closed eyes, responded with a resounding “yes.”
During the final moments of that pinning ceremony, Ron succeeded in getting Lewis to open his eyes for a moment to see Ron saluting him. Lewis proudly saluted back, as a WWII Army Air Forces veteran.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, one out of every four dying Americans is a veteran. For Hospice of Michigan, veterans account for 25 percent of all its patients. The nonprofit hospice agency offers enhanced care specifically designed to meet the unique needs of veteran patients, celebrating and honoring those who have served in the U.S. military through pinning ceremonies, like the one that paid tribute to Lewis Woodruff.
Through We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Hospice of Michigan integrates veteran-specific content into training staff members and volunteers, and educates its patients and their families on services and benefits offered to members of the military. The organization makes every effort to pair veteran patients with those who have a military service background. Hospice of Michigan is proud of its Level Four status with We Honor Veterans, which signifies the organization has met the highest standards set by the VA and NHPCO for this national program.
As America celebrates Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Hospice of Michigan extends special appreciation to all military service members and their families for their sacrifice to protect the freedom of others. For information about Hospice of Michigan and its involvement with We Honor Veterans, please visit www.hom.org.