It's never too late to thank a veteran

Pam Sterner adds a name to the "Wall of Heroes" community art project at the Hospice of Western Reserve's annual meeting Oct. 30. This year's event honored the hundreds of volunteers and veterans in attendance. Photo by Jerry Mann

Westlake and Bay Village residents, as well as those in our surrounding West Shore communities, joined Americans across the country to observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11, a day to salute the men and women who have bravely served our country. These fellow Americans have made sacrifices in defense of freedom. Honoring our local veterans includes supporting them throughout their entire lives.

For some of our local veterans, however, nearing the end of life can bring anguish over past war experiences. Did you know that Hospice of the Western Reserve, our community-based nonprofit hospice, is one the nation’s largest legacy providers of care? Or that the organization has made a special commitment to those who have served in the Armed Forces?   

Over the past two years, the agency has provided care to more than 3,200 veterans throughout Northeast Ohio, including many of our friends and neighbors. Its Peaceful & Proud program provides training for clinical care teams so they can address complex issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Each Veterans Day, a special veterans recognition ceremony including the individual "pinning" and recognition of each veteran who resides at Ames Family Hospice House in Westlake and who wishes to be honored, takes place.

In addition, a special Veterans Memorial Garden and Veterans Walk of Honor on the grounds of Ames Family Hospice House provides a wonderful way to pay tribute to family members and loved ones who have served in the Armed Forces by memorializing them with special engraved bricks along the pathway. All funds raised from the program stay in the community and go directly into programs benefiting hospice patients and their families.

The hospice also conducts many more such recognition ceremonies across Northeast Ohio each year, ranging from intimate gatherings involving a single hospice patient and family members to large public events where a hundred or more veterans are honored. This year, more than 2,000 veterans will be honored and personally thanked in public recognition ceremonies by Hospice of the Western Reserve. Many more will be recognized in private bedside ceremonies.

“Northeast Ohio is home to a very large veteran population, and many vets are nearing the end of life. Some of the most important work we do is helping them find peace,” explained Bill Finn, chief executive officer. Finn said to help address these needs, volunteers who have served in the military are paired with veteran patients, providing the camaraderie of shared experiences. Counseling, storytelling, art and music therapy, and legacy work are just a few of the ways the community-based hospice helps veterans achieve the peace they seek at the end of life.

Hospice of the Western Reserve is also actively involved with We Honor Veterans, an innovative program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offered in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The hospice is among an elite group that has achieved a “partner level four” designation from the national program, given only to hospices demonstrating the highest level of commitment to veterans. If you or a veteran you love would like more information about the services provided by Hospice of the Western Reserve, visit, or call 800-707-8922. 

And remember, this Veterans Day, or any day at all ... It's never too late to thank a veteran!

Laurie Henrichsen

Laurie Henrichsen is Public/Media Relations Manager for Hospice of the Western Reserve.

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Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 9:58 AM, 11.11.2014