(SACRAMENTO) — Since 2012, UC Davis Hospice has proudly recognized more than 150 veterans through its We Honor Veterans program, offering support and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country. Hospice staff and volunteers make a special effort to deliver a moving, personalized ceremony – often the last opportunity for veterans to be thanked and honored for their service.
Many of these veterans are eager to tell their stories, providing details from their time in the military that go back 50 or 60 years – and have never been shared with their families prior to the ceremony.
“Every year, we celebrate Veterans Day with many programs to recognize and thank our veterans,” said UC Davis Hospice volunteer Randy Kanouse. “But we rarely recite the story of a single person and offer them our gratitude for their sacrifices, determination and commitment – and We Honor Veterans provides us that opportunity.”
Kanouse, who helped establish the program and created the format of the ceremony from scratch, said he begins by interviewing the veteran to learn about his or her life and military service, and writing a short speech. On the day of the ceremony, in pre-pandemic times, the veteran is surrounded by family members and close friends (due to COVID-19 precautions, these gatherings now take place virtually).
Regardless of the venue, the loved ones who attend the ceremony genuinely cherish the opportunity to learn about these important memories and to share in this celebration. These intimate ceremonies also allow family members to express heartfelt words to their loved ones.
“When you single out one person for special recognition, that means so very much to that person and his or her family,” Kanouse said.
During the ceremony, the veteran receives a certificate of appreciation, a service pin, and a U.S. flag pin – a representation of everything that the veterans served to defend and protect. A volunteer photographer documents the ceremony through pictures, which are then shared with the veteran and their families as valued keepsakes.
Through the "We Honor Veterans" program at UC Davis Hospice, veterans are given the opportunity to be thanked for their sacrifices, determination and commitment to this country while they are still alive. The staff and volunteers –through their love and dedication – make the occasion a true hero’s welcome home.
“These ceremonies are often very emotional moments,” Kanouse said. “On that day and at that time, that veteran is truly immortal.”
For more information, please visit the program website.
To learn how you can donate and help support truly meaningful programs like this, please call Reese Scherber at 916-291-5775.