Recognizing and Thanking Our Community’s Veterans

San Diego Veterans Magazine, November 2020

San Diego’s rich military culture and numerous military bases attracts many veterans who make our community their permanent home. As our veterans age, many experience a wide-range of effects on their lives as a result of their military service. It is essential that healthcare providers understand our veterans’ unique needs to provide them with the appropriate level of care.

The Elizabeth Hospice cares deeply about the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting our safety and freedom – during times of conflict as well as peacetime. As the leading nonprofit hospice provider in San Diego County and Southwest Riverside County, the organization is committed to helping ensure that veterans are aware of their healthcare options, feel appreciated, and receive the medical support and attention they need and deserve. Care teams at The Elizabeth Hospice, who are trained to address post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, survivors’ guilt and soul injury, focus on providing experiences that bring meaning and peace to a person’s life. The Elizabeth Hospice has been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization as a We Honor Veterans Level 5 Partner, the highest level of distinction in this national program.

One way that The Elizabeth Hospice expresses its appreciation to veterans is through pinning ceremonies. These events, officiated by the organization’s volunteers who are veterans or active duty service members, bring together family members and friends to publicly celebrate and thank veterans for their military service. They are typically conducted either at the bedside or in group events at senior residential facilities and community centers. To meet the requirements of current social distancing guidelines established to prevent the spread of COVID-19, The Elizabeth Hospice developed a virtual way to provide this valuable experience to veterans who are nearing the end of their life.

A Veterans Recognition Ceremony video was created by The Elizabeth Hospice as a “gift” to veterans residing in senior living facilities. The 14-minute video, narrated by Army Combat Veteran and Spiritual Counselor for The Elizabeth Hospice, Edward Dotson, premiered on August 14, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. It will be shown at numerous senior residential facilities on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020.

All five branches of the United States military are represented in the video. There are interviews with veterans that served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War as well as historical footage. The video features active-duty service members and retirees reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a live performance of the National Anthem and God Bless America by vocalist Samuel Nehemiah, and a medley of the service songs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The highlight of the video is on-screen messages from four veterans: William Glover, United States Marine Corps (Retired); Bernie Trifoso, United States Coast Guard; Nancy Owen, United States Navy (Retired); and William Hays, United States Navy (Retired).

“I graduated from the Naval Academy and served for more than 30 years as a Navy Officer, in the Korean War, Vietnam and Cold War, “said Captain Hays. “In Vietnam, I commanded three Navy ships. We captured 19 enemy prisoners of war and a trawler loaded with ammunition for the Vietcong. After the war, I commanded Navy shore activities before retiring in 1983.” Captain Hays continues his commitment to supporting others. He played a role in saving the old Navy Chapel in Balboa Park from being demolished. Today this facility is home to the San Diego Veterans Museum, where Mr. Hays serves as a volunteer docent.

Bernie Trifoso was 19 years old when he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. He served as Pharmacists Mate, First Class, in landing crafts going ashore the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. “Half the boats went right, and half the boats went left. The boats on the left were all shot up.I just happened to be in the boats on the right,” said Mr. Trifoso. “I was on the landing craft infantry, responsible for landing the troops as close as possible to the beach. The sky was lit up with gunfire and planes as our First Division Army men fought their way to shore with water up to their necks and heavy packs on their backs. Many of them never made it, but they made it possible for the U.S. to start our European invasion. They are the real heroes, giving their lives for their country,” he continued.

The Veterans Recognition Ceremony video was made possible in part by Disabled American Veterans, a long-time supporter of The Elizabeth Hospice. Additional support came from the San Diego Veterans Museum at Balboa Park that offered their site for the filming of the video and Honor Flight San Diego for selecting the featured veterans.

Volunteers play an important role in providing emotional healing to veteran patients of The Elizabeth Hospice. In addition to assisting with veteran recognition ceremonies, they serve as patient care companions.

If you are interested in learning how you can support our community’s veterans, contact Anna Schulz, Volunteer Manager for The Elizabeth Hospice, at volunteer@ehospice.org or 760.796.3729.

The online version of San Diego Veterans Magazine can be viewed here:

San Diego Veterans Magazine, November 2020