Frank Ashinhurst shows up to volunteer with hat in hand. Not his hat, but one he’s brought with him for the Veteran he’s come to visit.
“Before I visit, I find out what branch of the service they were in, and I pick up a hat from that branch for them,” he explains. Frank is part of the Crossroads Hospice Vet-to-Vet program. The program pairs a Veteran volunteer with a Veteran patient for companionship visits.
“It’s like talking to history,” says Volunteer Frank Ashinhurst. “These guys have unbelievable stories, and they’ll tell me because I’m a Veteran, too. ”
Frank served in the U.S. Army as part of the Vietnam War, and it’s given him a unique understanding of what fellow Veterans have experienced. “My wife doesn’t even know some of the things I’ve done,” he says. “As soon as they see my Vietnam Veteran hat, they loosen up. When I visit, I try to give them recognition, talk to them, let them vent. Some feel guilty about things they’ve done, and I tell them it’s their service that allows us to have the freedom we have in America. They know the countries they visited didn’t have that freedom. You feel safe talking to a fellow Veteran because you know a Veteran will have your back.”
Right now, Frank is visiting six Veterans. “I’ll go anywhere to see a Veteran,” he confesses. “A few miles ain’t nothing. I could put 500 miles on my car in a week, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.”
Frank also speaks to other Veterans at the VFW and American Legion, encouraging them to volunteer their time. “It’s not a job,” he tells them. “It’s a reward. They smile and are happy for the short time you’re there. It’s worth everything in the world to these Veterans who are dying. The stories they share you’ll never find in a history book.”
It can also just be a quiet time of companionship. “I visited one man who lived alone at home. His wife had passed. He was on oxygen. We spent the day watching baseball. I just wanted to give him a nice day,” he shares.
“You know they’re on hospice. You know how it ends. But if I can give them one happy day and make them smile, it’s worth it.”
To learn more about volunteering or any of our Crossroads Hospice programs, please contact us at 888-564-3405.
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