CENTREVILLE — Alvin Abend of Chestertown, a retired sergeant with the United States Air Force, recently was honored during a Veterans Recognition Ceremony at Compass Regional Hospice. Compass Regional Hospice is a national partner of “We Honor Veterans,” a campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Compass Regional Hospice honors all hospice patients who have served in the military with a special ceremony. Each honoree is presented with a pin, framed certificate, tabletop flag and a patriotic lap quilt made by volunteers. For veterans admitted to the hospice center, an American flag and the flag of the veteran’s branch of the service are posted on either side of the door to the patient’s room.
Trained staff and volunteers provide veterans and their families with local resources surrounding veteran end-of-life experiences, benefits and other ongoing projects to recognize the dedication of these heroes.
“Many of our veterans were not appropriately thanked for their service and dedication to our country, regardless of their level of involvement,” said Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services with Compass Regional Hospice. “Even if it is the first time they have heard someone say ‘thank you,’ it is important to everyone in our organization that we take the time to honor their service.”
Compass Regional Hospice enrolled in the program in 2012. In 2017, Compass Regional Hospice was awarded the “We Honor Veterans” partner level four distinction — the highest level an organization can reach. To achieve this distinction, a hospice center must provide ongoing veteran-centric education for staff and volunteers, build organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans, and develop and strengthen relationships with VA medical centers and other veteran organizations.
“Our vets are a special population of our patients that require specialized care due to the experiences they have had in the military,” Williams said. “Through this program, we have reached level four by continuing to improve the care we provide to veterans and partnering with our community to ensure they receive the care they deserve.”
Through the “We Honor Veterans” program, Compass Regional Hospice gratefully acknowledges its military and service men, women and families. The mission of the program is to serve the nation’s veterans, who have served their country so selflessly, during their end-of-life journey.
As a veteran-centric organization, Compass Regional Hospice also provides a Vet-to-Vet program, which aims to pair veteran volunteers with veteran hospice patients. These hospice-trained volunteers, with personal military experience, have the unique ability to relate and connect with veteran patients and their families.
“Having volunteers with personal experience in the armed forces helps them to relate on a different level with our veteran patients. We are lucky to offer Vet-to-Vet volunteers to the patients we serve, so they have the opportunity of camaraderie,” Williams said.
Abend joined the Air Force in January 1964, eventually serving as a helicopter mechanic during the Vietnam War. Already a member of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Texas, he recalled the day he went to volunteer to serve in Vietnam.
“We went to go volunteer (for Vietnam), and the guy said, ‘What’s your name?’ And I told him. (The officer said,) ‘You don’t have to volunteer. Your number’s up,” Abend recalled, saying his number was about to be called because of the draft, which was being employed by the federal government of the United States at the time to fill vacancies that were not able to be filled by voluntary means.
Once overseas, Abend was stationed in Udorn, Thailand, and was part of helicopter rescue missions for stranded U.S. troops along the Ho Chi Minh trail, a logistical system of mountain and jungle paths that ran through the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam, as well as through Laos and Cambodia. The trail was controlled by North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong used the trail to infiltrate troops and supplies on their way to South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
“If they were blowing up the trail and (U.S. troops) got hurt, then we would try to get (our men out),” Abend said. “The idea was to get them out, and (we) were quite successful, actually.”
Abend’s four-year service ended December 1967, and he returned home to Maryland, where he worked as a firefighter and ambulance driver for the City of Bowie. He also has worked in construction and drove tractor-trailers, hauling gasoline.
Originally from Gambrills, after leaving Bowie, Abend moved to Kent County with his wife, Margaret Founds.
“Our involvement in the ‘We Honor Veterans’ program has been so meaningful. We have been told by our veteran patients and their families many times that we are the first people that have ever recognized their service and honored them,” said Heather Guerieri, executive director, Compass Regional Hospice. “The recognition ceremony is very touching — to be able to honor our veteran patients before they die, and to give them the recognition they deserve.”
To learn more about the “We Honor Veterans” program with Compass Regional Hospice or to volunteer with the Vet-to-Vet program through the organization, contact Williams at 443-262-4112 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit compassregionalhospice.org/volunteers.
Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms – Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville, Chestertown and Denton. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.