Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate
One in four deaths each day in the United States is someone who is a military veteran. Here in San Diego, we are acutely aware of our veteran population, with over 260,000 veterans in our community.
The world renowned San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine believes it is important to understand the unique needs of veterans, and provide them with the best end-of-life care possible with those needs at the forefront. One of them is Jim Evans.
Evans is a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has benefited from San Diego Hospice care for more than a year. He speaks of his military service with an unmistakable sense of pride and reverence. “My time in the military was the greatest experience of my life,” says Evans.
At 18, Jim Evans entered military service with the United States Army. He was selected for Officers Candidate School (OCS) and graduated as the youngest Second Lieutenant at that time. Shortly after OCS, Evans was assigned as a platoon leader with the 4th Infantry Division in England.
On June 6, 1944, he along with some 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. Evans’ platoon landed on Utah Beach. Minor injuries and brief hospitalization did not keep Evans from returning to action with the 79th Infantry Division. He was promoted to First Lieutenant. His platoon members called him “Red” and although he was the youngest in his group, after a few combat encounters, his men accepted his capabilities and trusted his leadership.
While serving with the 79th Infantry, Evans was seriously injured, hospitalized and in physical therapy for close to three years. During his successful career in the U.S. Army, Evans was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He retired from the military and found success as a marketing executive and vice president in the food industry. In 1966, he and his young family made San Diego their home.
In looking back on his military experience, Evans credits the lessons he learned in shaping his life personally and professionally. “The military taught me leadership, determination and caring.”
Today, Evans receives care and support from San Diego Hospice. “Hospice helps me find answers,” said Evans.
Veterans Matter is San Diego Hospice’s commitment to veterans and all the military in the community. In conjunction with the national We Honor Veterans movement, sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and Veterans Affairs, San Diego Hospice provides training to its staff in areas related to veterans’ experiences and needs specific to wars and trauma, military culture, mental health issues, and benefits as well as provide additional recognition for veterans on our service.
“San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine has always had the philosophy of respecting and honoring our veterans and patients’ cultures, traditions and beliefs,” said Kathleen Pacurer, President and CEO. “Our Veterans Matter outreach program recognizes those who have done our country a great honor, by allowing us to honor them with great care.”
San Diego Hospice shows great respect for those who have been willing to risk their lives for our country. To thank a veteran who comes into their care, the veterans is honored with a special ceremony in their home or wherever they call home. For veterans residing in San Diego Hospice’s inpatient care centers, additional recognition is placed in patient room in the form of military flags, displays, and the veteran’s own cherished keepsakes.
Through the Veterans Matter program, San Diego Hospice trains its staff and volunteers to recognize and understand military culture, needs specific to wars and trauma, mental health issues and general understanding of benefits available to veterans through the Veterans Affairs system.
Every patient identified as a veteran receives a military history assessment so staff can better understand their years of service, help to determine their needs and match them with benefits and services that may be available to them.
But no one truly understands a veteran like another veteran who’s been there. The Vet-to-Vet Volunteer Program matches patients that are veterans with active duty or veteran volunteers, providing companionship, caregiver relief, and assistance with special recognition ceremonies.
As Memorial Day approaches, it is incumbent upon all of us to honor veterans like Jim Evans who are still with us to thank them for their service. It is also vitally important to remember the sacrifices of Evans’ comrades and many others before and since who allow us to live in freedom in the greatest nation on earth. There is truly no thank you and no single holiday that will ever be enough to compensate for their commitment.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!