Cooney: Hospice of the Valley surprises Goodyear veteran with special tribute

Posted 4/22/21

It was an emotional day to remember for veteran Kenneth Hamrick — not only did the staff at The Groves in Goodyear invite family and friends to a patio party to celebrate his 89th birthday, his Hospice of the Valley care team had another surprise in the works.

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Cooney: Hospice of the Valley surprises Goodyear veteran with special tribute

Hospice of the Valley veteran patient Kenneth Hamrick, left, and volunteer Ron Garner salute each other. [Courtesy of Hospice of the Valley]
Hospice of the Valley veteran patient Kenneth Hamrick, left, and volunteer Ron Garner salute each other. [Courtesy of Hospice of the Valley]
Posted

It was an emotional day to remember for veteran Kenneth Hamrick — not only did the staff at The Groves in Goodyear invite family and friends to a patio party to celebrate his 89th birthday, his Hospice of the Valley care team had another surprise in the works: a Salutes visit to honor his military service. Kenneth served as an Army private for two years during the Korean War.

“I love it,” he said softly. “It took me back to when I enlisted — 16 weeks of basic training. I was proud to serve.” Kenneth recalls a few scary memories, like hearing the order: “Fix bayonets.”

He looks pained for a moment. “That means you’re going to fight.” His most painful recollection: Losing his cousin to the war. His favorite memory? “Well, my favorite thing was coming home!” he laughs. Then he sobers and adds, “In one piece.”

After presenting Kenneth with a stunning handmade quilt featuring a patriotic theme, Army reservist Ron Garner proudly saluted a man he described as “kind, humble and most deserving of such an honor.”

“It just makes my day. It’s really special for me to bond with a person who has served,” Ron confides. “I mean, the man is 89 years old and is wearing his veteran’s hat. His service to our country is obviously significant to him.”

The visit was also deeply touching for Kenneth’s family, who shared how much they cherished the moment the two men saluted each other. “This means so much. My dad never spoke of the war while I was growing up and probably doesn’t know how much I respect his service. We have our freedom because of men like him,“ daughter Kim Vancs says.

At Hospice of the Valley, several people worked behind the scenes to make this happen: Ron, a volunteer from the Laveen area; volunteer coordinator Eileen Dullum; Samantha Inciong, a community liaison; social worker Katie Cozby; nurse Shannon Seidel; and team leader Sarah Ellis.

Arizona is home to more than half a million veterans. The agency’s Saluting Our Veterans program reflects a commitment to honor veteran patients like Kenneth for their service to our country and for the sacrifices they and their loved ones made.

A trained volunteer, who also is a veteran, provides this recognition in a face-to-face visit — bestowing a ceremonial pin and a small flag. The two veterans spend time reminiscing about their years of service, often surprising family members who are delighted to hear stories they have never heard before.

These moments are a priceless gift to veterans, who relive their past with pride, while families are left with precious new memories.

Salutes visits are a beautiful way to bring comfort, dignity and compassionate care into someone’s life at a such as meaningful time. To learn more about becoming a volunteer for this or other programs, visit hov.org/volunteer or call 602-636-6336.

Lin Sue Cooney is director of community engagement for Hospice of the Valley.

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