Saturday, May 26, 2012
Aging Oklahoma veterans can use your help
Oklahoma City – The Oklahoman
BY RANDY WHEELER
On Memorial Day we honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our nation. First observed in the years following the Civil War as “Decoration Day,” soldiers placed flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades. Today, we spend this day of remembrance with patriotic parades, memorial services and family get-togethers. We stand with the more than 324,000 veterans in Oklahoma as they honor fellow servicemen and women and reflect on their own service to the country.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, one in four dying Americans is a veteran. No matter how much time has passed, veterans carry the experiences of their military service with them, presenting unique challenges at the end of life. Many veterans feel a deep sense of pride about their service. But some veterans have never shared their stories of combat with others and face private battles caused by the lasting psychological wounds of war.
In some cases, veterans at the end of life experience post-traumatic stress disorder for the first time as their physical and emotional defenses weaken due to serious illness. For some, they cope with the loss of their comrades or remember vivid memories of combat decades later. Others feel hesitation about taking pride in their service or feel lingering guilt about the sacrifices they made. Veterans of each war have been exposed to diseases, environmental factors and personal and public sentiments about their service. A veteran of the Vietnam War doesn’t have the same needs as a veteran of the Korean War or World War II.
It’s important to create a trusting environment for veterans to share their experiences, and understand that each veteran views his service in a unique way. “We Honor Veterans,” a partnership between the National Hospice and Palliative Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs, is devoted to addressing the needs of aging veterans. Joined by hospices, veterans’ partnerships, VA facilities and volunteers across the country, partners in the program learn ways to honor veterans for their service, collect and preserve their military history, and show appreciation to their loved ones. At Crossroads Hospice, all of our veteran patients are honored in a patriotic pinning ceremony where they are presented with a certificate, pin, hat and flag honoring the sacrifice they have made for our country.