It is one of the beautiful compensations in life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bob Allen shares this quote as he talks about his involvement with the Veteran outreach and the American Pride program. “That kind of reciprocity is always there,” he says of his experience in interacting with Veterans.
A Veteran of the Vietnam War, Bob was looking for something to do after his retirement in 2013. “My wife got me involved in the fledgling Veterans program at Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County where she worked,” Bob recalls. It was a turning point for him. Bob discovered a passion for connecting with other Veterans. Bob then joined the American Pride effort of Hospice of Central Ohio after relocating to the Newark area. He continues all of his outreach activities and actively recruits other Veterans for involvement in the American Pride effort. “Most of us are more mature and retired,” Bob says. “We need more younger Veterans and more females – more good people who want to serve a higher cause and give of themselves.”
The American Pride program helps Veterans receive all the benefits they’ve earned and provides support for the unique end of life experience of Veterans. Especially important are American Pride volunteers who serve as companions to fellow Veterans. Their common experience provides a valuable starting point for sharing and support. Veterans of all eras make valuable contributions by talking with fellow servicemen and women. Bob says it is cathartic to speak with other Veterans about their shared experience. “The more you talk openly and candidly about these experiences, the more meaningful they become,” Bob observes.
Bob feels his participation in the American Pride program helps address two major experiences of Veterans facing end-of-life. “The two things that seem to really deteriorate for Veterans at the end-of-life are dignity and respect,” says Bob. “As their physical needs increase, they experience a loss of dignity. Many of them are also fearful that they do not have a right to respect because of things they may have done during their military service. They may never be able to speak of this to their family, but they can share their concerns with other Veterans. We offer no judgment and can talk about these issues to help restore the respect they deserve.”
Asked about an experience in his American Pride interactions that particularly touched him, Bob answered without hesitation. “We regularly visit the hospice wing at the VA Medical Center to visit and honor veterans. On one visit we encountered a gentleman who was disabled and mostly unresponsive. We pinned and honored him as we always do. As leave, we always offer a personal salute. He tried to salute us in return, as best he could. The staff told us it was the first time he had moved since he’d become a patient with them.”
To become involved with the American Pride program at Hospice of Central Ohio, please contact Volunteer Services at 740.788.1404 or volunteerservices@HospiceOfCentralOhio.org.