Rick Ekstrand served in the U.S. army in the mid-1960s, including one tour in Vietnam. However, the military stories floating around in his head date all the way back to World War II.
That’s because each week Rick visits with veterans in Fairview Hospice. Together they watch sports, talk about current events and share stories about their time in the service.
Rick listens to his fellow veterans as they talk about the sacrifices they made for their country. He hears the pride that wells up in their voices as they speak about their service. He provides an empathetic ear as they look back on a life’s worth of memories, some happy and some bittersweet.
Rick is a volunteer with Fairview Hospice and We Honor Veterans, a national program that partners with local hospice care providers to meet the unique needs of veterans and their families. Fairview has participated in the program for more than four years, training volunteers—most of whom are veterans themselves—and connecting them with veterans in hospice.
“I have learned that hospice patients really look forward to the visits,” says Rick. “I try to find some common ground with each person I visit so we have mutual things to share and talk about. Most just want to have someone to spend time with.”
One vet who Rick visited was an avid Twins fan, and the two would often watch games together.
Another was a World War II veteran who loved sharing colorful wartime stories.
Others don’t say much, but Rick sits with them anyway offering whatever comfort he can provide.
“Each vet has touched me in one way or another,” says Rick. “My favorite part is knowing that the person I visit knows another vet cares.”
Another way Fairview and We Honor Veterans let patients know they care is through special pinning ceremonies thanking vets for their service. Families and friends gather for the ceremony and the veteran is given the opportunity to share his or her story with them.
This simple act of recognition is often incredibly important for the veteran and their loved ones.
“The ceremony touches the family very deeply,” says Rick. “The veterans have a lot of pride in what they gave to our country in time and sacrifice.”
Fairview Hospice’s participation in the We Honor Veterans program is dependent on the dedication of our veteran volunteers. If you are a veteran interested in volunteering with the We Honor Vets program, please contact Anne Myers-Richards at 612-728-2408 or click here.