Hospice of Health First Performs 10 to 15 Honor Ceremonies for Veterans a Month
By Space Coast Daily // November 5, 2023
Calling All Veterans! A Final Salute.
Hospice of Health First performs 10 to 15 Honor Ceremonies for veterans a month, an outreach of five-star Forever a Hero program.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Americans stand ready to honor veterans, none more so than fellow veterans who know both the valor and the sacrifice of serving. As a Level Five partner in the national We Honor Veterans program, Hospice of Health First is committed to giving veteran patients their final salute as it serves them near the end of their life.
The five-star Forever a Hero performs Honor Ceremonies for veterans in Hospice of Health First, and earlier this month, Hospice of Health First invited veterans – and anyone interested in learning more – to an informational meeting.
The program currently performs about 10 to 15 Honor Ceremonies a month. It is not looking to expand the number of ceremonies – any Hospice of Health First who is a veteran may receive an Honor Ceremony – but the number of veteran volunteers to staff them.
Recently, the program partnered with active-duty servicemen at Patrick Space Force Base and members of the American Legion Post 117 in Palm Bay to attend Honor Ceremonies.
“Our veteran volunteers add a very special context to the occasion,” said Susan Miller, Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice of Health First, and a U.S. Air Force veteran herself. “When the patient can meet and talk to someone who has this same background of military service, their eyes light up. Being in the service sticks with you for a lifetime.”
Forever a Hero has mobilized for an Honor Ceremony in a matter of hours. It has performed ceremonies for hospice veterans who did not live to see them.
“We’re trying to make Forever a Hero more prevalent so we don’t ever miss one. That’s always been our goal. We don’t want to miss a single opportunity to honor a veteran,” says Stephanie Larkin, Manager, Hospice of Health First.
‘TO RECOGNIZE AND SHOW UP’
At an Honoring Ceremony, the honoree is presented with a folded American flag, a certificate acknowledging their service, and an American flag pin along with other items. As meaningfully, they are asked to open up about their service – the duration of their service, deployments, duties and memories. Profoundly, the honoree’s family is also invited to dialogue with their loved one.
“Their service is something they carry with them their entire life,” says Rob Lape, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who retired at the rank of Master Sergeant. “They will tell you stories about it. They have developed core values that they apply to every job, every relationship they have.”
“These ceremonies are the best,” says Dana Jackson, representing American Legion Post 117 in Palm Bay. “These ceremonies allow the veterans to be seen and heard in their last moments of life, and for us to recognize and show up – they maybe haven’t seen a veteran in a while.”
“I served 25 years” in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of 1st Sergeant, Jackson says, “but so did my family. So did their families. This helps the families put themselves at peace with what is about to happen.”
A MILITARY COMMUNITY
Miller says that Brevard County residents should know that, if it seems like residents in this area are more eager to honor service members – active, retired and no longer with us – it’s not a coincidence.
“It’s my experience at Patrick [Space Force Base] that officers and senior staff made Patrick their last duty station because they wanted to retire in Brevard County. Why? I think it’s this community. Even if you’re not in the military, you have a connection to our nation’s armed forces that’s very strong.”
For 12 years, Hospice of Health First 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. Five years ago it created its Forever a Hero program, now a Five Star-rated veterans’ recognition and aid program, according to the organization.
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.