Health First Hospice Salutes Veterans With Highly-Rated Forever a Hero Ceremony and Flag All Year Long
By Space Coast Daily // July 4, 2023
NHPCO: Forever a Hero is Five Star-rated veterans’ recognition and aid program
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The 4th of July has become a summertime occasion to grill, light fireworks, go to outdoor concerts, and fly our flag. In all of the fun, it’s important to remember that our freedom isn’t guaranteed.
It requires vigilance, and for that, we have our service men and women to thank.
Hospice of Health First takes that appreciation seriously. For 12 years, it has honored our nation’s veterans with ceremonies and recognitions as part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s We Honor Veterans program.
But Health First took it a step further, starting its own program five years ago called Forever a Hero now a Five Star-rated veterans’ recognition and aid program, according to NHPCO.
The Health First Foundation is asking the community to consider supporting the program with a donation that will go directly toward Forever a Hero and the keepsakes given to veterans.
Each month, Hospice typically schedules about 12 to 15 Forever Hero ceremonies up and down the Space Coast, from Mims to Sebastian.
The formal pinning ceremonies include the presentation of a folded American flag, an American flag pin, and a personalized certificate. Most also include a red-white-and-blue-themed blanket knitted or sewn by Love Stitches.
“These forever heroes faced their mortality before when they were sworn into service,” said Aprille Waldrop, LCSW, Manager of Social Services at Hospice of Health First. “Their own willingness to die for us shows that freedom isn’t free and is worth celebrating.”
The ceremonies are typically attended by family members as well as the Hospice nurse and social worker assigned to the patient. Often, hospice volunteers who are themselves veterans attend to honor patients’ service. Volunteer Coordinator Susan Miller is one of those veterans who attends often.
Miller has led veterans’ recognition services for more than a decade. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, she served from 1997 to 2001, and again from 2005 to 2011, finishing with the 45th Security Forces Squadron out of Patrick Space Force Base – “so this community means a lot to me.”
Miller is the force behind Forever a Hero, and she says the Five Star rating from NHPCO is more than meeting a particular threshold of pinning ceremonies. She and the Hospice team use resources to progressively increase the system’s ability to service veterans on an individual level of care – whatever they might need.
But the pinning ceremonies do muster a collective demonstration of thanks.
“When you are with a family, and they are so proud of their loved one’s service, you’re able to honor them,” she said. “We are there to listen to their story. It’s not just the ceremony. We want to hear them talk about it. Sometimes they will tell us things that their family members later say, ‘I have never heard that story before.’”
The ceremonies are marked at times by laughs and by tears, she said. The only consistency is that each pinning ceremony is “totally unique,” – each special for all involved.
“We are able to provide veterans with a sense of assurance they did a job well done and can move onto their eternal assignment,” said Woody Morrison, Hospice Chaplin.
“We celebrate veterans at the end of their lives. These are precious moments,” said Waldrop.
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