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Lutheran Hospice and Palliative Care Recognized by Department of Defense

DoD Lutheran Hospice Award

The Department of Defense has honored the Lutheran Hospice and Palliative Care team with a certificate of Vietnam War Commemoration. This certificate reflects a commitment to provide better care and resources to veterans, particularly meeting the unique needs of Vietnam veterans.

Since 2019, the Hospice and Palliative Care team has been partnering with We Honor Veterans (WHV), a National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Lutheran Hospice and Palliative Care’s initiative, led by Sasha Benner, Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, and Ginger Cooley, Volunteer Coordinator, ensures that veterans receive the care that they deserve, and raises awareness of the sacrifices that veterans have made for our country. This program also serves as a referral source for the Veteran Affairs locations throughout the communities we serve.

In partnership with the WHV program, the team has worked tirelessly on a collaborative community outreach approach to provide resources and support to veterans in the Colorado region. In Colorado alone, there are over 394,000 living veterans, more than 127,000 of which are Vietnam veterans. 

“During the Vietnam War, there was a political divide that separated America as we fought in the war,” Ginger said. “This was the first televised war that Americans saw. Because of this, soldiers were ostracized and not portrayed or respected appropriately, and once they returned from war, they were not celebrated or honored for their time. They were not thanked for their service, and most importantly, not welcomed home.”

The team has been working to make things right. Their work to honor veterans includes hosting a pinning ceremony for all veteran patients, where they are presented with an American flag pin, a certificate and a star from a retired American flag. Vietnam veterans are also presented with a special lapel pin to honor their service. The team has also hosted a clothing drive for veterans in the community to ensure that they receive the proper clothing and comfort that they deserve.

“Being a part of this program touches my heart because I know how impactful and deserving this is for our veterans,” Sasha said. “They never got to talk about their service or wanted to seek help, which resulted in many taking their own lives. They also experienced the long-term effects of the hazardous chemicals that they were exposed to, causing lifetime illnesses, cancer and death.”

"Veterans face many challenges that are unique and the result of their service to our country,” said Steven Michaels, Technology Support Services Leader and member of the Peaks Region Veterans Resource Group. “The work of the Lutheran Hospice and Palliative team continues to support our mission of supporting those who have served.”

The Road to 5 Stars

In May 2021, the Hospice and Palliative Care team was awarded 4-star recognition from the We Honor Veterans organization. Since being recognized with the 4-star recognition, the Hospice and Palliative Care team has been working towards its fifth and final star. Levels of the WHV program represent the capabilities of the hospice and palliative care resources and commitment to veterans. The higher the recognition, the more dedication is needed to maintain this status. Lutheran Hospice and Palliative Care hopes to grow its veteran recognition and earn its fifth star in 2023.

Organizations that choose to apply for the 5-star level embark on a yearlong journey to meet all requirements. To achieve 5-star recognition, organizations must host a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans party.” This celebration commemorates the sacrifices that Vietnam veterans, and all veterans, have made.

“When I first began working with the WHV program, I had no prior knowledge of this outstanding organization,” Sasha said. “This program was introduced at Lutheran Medical Center before I began, and my predecessors, one being an Air Force veteran, saw an opportunity to improve care for our veterans and pay special tribute to them. It was also a way to offer education to staff and be a part of a larger community.”

To learn more about the work of the We Honor Veterans program, visit www.wehonorveterans.org.