The 12th annual United Hospice of Rockland’s Salute to Veterans was coming to a close and one by one, each group of veterans was asked to stand to receive applause from their peers and admirers.
There were more than 300 veterans at the event, including large groups of vets from the Vietnam War and Korean War. The group of World War II veterans probably received the loudest applause, although the one lone veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan was also warmly received Tuesday morning at the Crowne Plaza in Suffern.
“The event has really grown,” said Bonnie Walsh, assistant director of hospice. “We did it the first two years actually on Veteran’s Day, but all the veterans are so busy that day. We had maybe 10 veterans show up the first year. After moving the date of the event, it’s grown each year we’ve had it.”
The yearly breakfast is a way for the hospice to thank the veterans, as well as let veterans know about different hospice services. Walsh said the hospice used to offer free services to veterans and eventually the Veterans Administration started started working with hospices to serve veterans.
“We have a very strong relationship,” Walsh said. “We try to really reach out and help veterans all throughout the year. This isn’t a one-day thing to celebrate veterans.”
One way United Hospice tries to do that is by letting veterans know about the Vet to Vet Volunteer Program. Hospice volunteer Jim Murphy talked about the program on Tuesday.
“What does it take to be a volunteer? It doesn’t take medical training, it doesn’t take spiritual knowledge, it doesn’t take psychology,” he said. “All it takes is being a neighbor who gives a damn. You go over, you visit. You let the caregiver, the spouse, have a few hours off. If the patient is by himself, you sit and watch TV. You run errands, maybe just break the monotony and go out for lunch. Take him to the [American] Legion post.”
Murphy added that a few veterans call him the “chit-chat guy,” and asked those who think they can be “chit-chat guys or chit-chat girls” to sign up for the program as well.
The program included sing-a-longs of patriotic songs and a group of veterans were honored. They were:
- Barry Fixler
- Chet Lubeck
- Wallace Kraemer
- Barney Shiner
- Frank Morea
Fixler, a Vietnam veteran and owner of Barry's Estate Jewelry in Bardonia, is also an author. He wrote “Semper Cool: One Marine's Fond Memories of Vietnam” about his time as a marine. He spoke at the event a lot about his father, a Pearl Harbor survivor, who served in the Army.
“My father planted the seed in me when I was growing up when I was a teenager,” Fixler said.