Veterans honor veterans in their final days

Hospice volunteers with military service share joys, struggles, and stories in ways no one else can.

Bill Pomije, a volunteer with Fairview Hospice, remembers his first visit with a patient.

The man served during World War II in the Navy. Bill found out what ship the man was stationed on, went home, and began an online search.

During their next visit, Bill shared what he found: photographs of the ship from that time period. The patient saw the faces of dearly remembered shipmates — and even his own face in one of the photos.

Bill was proud to honor the military service of someone who had sacrificed so much, and it meant a lot to do so during the man’s final days. It was a profound, personal moment because Bill is a veteran himself.

“It was very emotional for both of us,” says Bill, who served in the Army for 23 years. “Whenever you leave your family and everything that you know to join the military — and especially if you’re preparing to go to war — it’s an intense experience that others have no frame of reference for. If the veteran I'm meeting with sees that I have had the same experiences, it’s a powerful connection.”

Bill is a volunteer with Fairview Hospice and We Honor Veterans, a national program that partners with local hospice providers to meet the unique needs of veterans and their families.

The need for volunteers to visit veterans is significant. We Honor Veterans says 1 in 4 dying Americans once served in the military. Fairview has participated in the program for more than six years, training volunteers — most of whom, like Bill, are veterans themselves — and connecting them with veterans in hospice.

For Bill, giving back to other veterans has been more than worthwhile, whether it’s talking about their years of service or events from other areas of their lives. It’s still as rewarding for him as it was during that first visit, five years ago.

“You get to know wonderful people who are thinking about their lives as they’re approaching death in the near term, and it helps you think about how you’re living your own life,” Bill says. “It’s a humbling, rewarding experience.”

If you're a veteran interested in becoming a hospice volunteer, call Cortney Kostreba at 612-728-2490 or click here.

Related Articles