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Honoring those who served

by Mark Fenton, Chaplain at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care

As a chaplain at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care, it’s a privilege for me to participate in the We Honor Veterans program, honoring those who served. We recognize people in our care who have served our county and the incredible sacrifices they have made. Our social workers and chaplains perform recognition ceremonies for the veterans in our care.

We Honor VeteransI find some of the most impactful memories I have working in hospice is when I perform a Veteran Recognition Ceremony. With so many inspiring stories I’ve heard, it’s hard for me to choose just one to share in honor of Veteran’s Day this year. I have worked with veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the more recent conflicts in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Each war had it own challenges and each veteran deals with those challenges in his or her own way.

USS Bunker Hill

Navy Machinist Frank “V” boarded the USS Bunker Hill in 1942 and spent the following 39 month at sea. Frank’s primary position was to repair the aircraft shot by enemy fire. The USS Bunker Hill provided support for the Okinawa invasion. Two kamikaze suicide planes crashed into her on the morning of May 11, 1945. 

A massive explosion woke Frank. He looked out to see a wall of fire outside the hanger, next to his sleeping quarters. Ten of the 100 planes on board caught fire from the blast, killing many of his fellow sailors. As smoke began to close in around Frank, he escaped through a hole made by the damage, by grabbing a lifejacket and jumping 40 feet into the ocean.

Frank watched the fiery ship sail away. “Well, there goes my ride,” he thought. There were several shipmates in the water with him. They kept him close until another ship arrived to pick them up. The USS Bunker Hill almost sank from the weight of the water the other ships used to put out the fire. Frank and his fellow survivors learned that 346 men had been killed, 43 were missing and 264 were wounded. Although seriously damaged, she managed to return to the US port of Bremerton, WA. You can read he story of the attack on the USS Bunker Hill in the book: Danger’s Hour by Maxwell Taylor Kennedy.

We Honor Veterans

May 11, 1945 – USS Bunker Hill

You can see dramatic video of the attack on the Smithsonian Channel

VIEW VIDEO “Now that’s a memory that does not go away,” stated one of the officers.

The Horrors of War

When we think of family and friends who served. We know that they likely saw the horrors of war. But, those of us who have not been there cannot truly understand the impact of the sights, sounds and emotions of battle. These are moments engraved in their memory in a way that we cannot fully comprehend.

Our WWII veterans buried those memories, protecting their loved ones and seldom opening up about their incredible experiences. When they face a serious illness, those images can come back to vividly. They are troubled in ways their family may not understand.

That’s one of the reasons We Honor Veterans was founded. Sometime our veterans need to get a few things off their chests and lay down the burden of memories long suppressed, but never truly forgotten.

Kansas City HospiceWhen it came time to honor Frank for his service, his family and friends surrounded him. As I began the recognition ceremony I gave Frank a certificate commemorating his time served with the Navy. We read The Sailor’s Creed. Then I presented him with a medallion hung on a red, white and blue ribbon. The family was moved to tears as I recognized Frank’s dedication and commitment to protecting us here at home.

Often stories like these allow me to reflect on how I can do recognize those who have served in our armed forces. I hope this one story can remind you of your loved ones who have served. Take a moment to recognize and thank them for their service.

About Us

 
The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. Our vision is that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.

2 Comments on “Honoring those who served”

  1. Stephanie Turner Says:

    Wow! I can only imagine how Frank was impacted throughout his life with this one event. Thank you for taking the time to recognize him and other veterans. Their time matters.

  2. Carol Barnett Says:

    “For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.”
    Author Unknown

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