By Volunteer Resources
In recognition of Memorial Day, and as our community commemorates the lives of those who died serving our country, we would like to share an excerpt from a journal entry written by one of our Vet-to-Vet volunteers, Mark, after a recent visit with his patient who is a military veteran. As part of the VETERANS MATTER Outreach Program at San Diego Hospice, Vet-to-Vet volunteers are matched with military veteran patients to provide companionship, caregiver relief, and assistance with special recognition ceremonies. The meaning of these Vet-to-Vet relationships, for both the patient and the volunteer, is profound.
Mark wrote, “Today’s session with my patient was incredible. I asked him about his experiences in the South Pacific during World War II. He told me he was on the USS HENDERSON, a former presidential line ship that was converted into a ‘Dependent Transport’ ship. He said they were leaving Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 with a load of evacuees from the Philippines and China, heading out to sea, when it was attacked… He described his experience on the HENDERSON as an engineer and told me that it was 116 degrees down there in the engine room. He said it was so loud that they had to get close to each other, cup their hands, and yell to communicate with each other; hence, his hard-of-hearing condition to date… Berthing compartments were hot and crowded. The men were stacked three and four high and he said that the sweat would cascade down from one bunk to the next! So it was preferable to be on the top bunk, because the lower you slept, the more sweat dripped down on you from those above. He said that every once in a while they’d take their mattresses up topside on the weather decks to get aired out. I can only imagine what a berthing compartment smelled like. Several times he emphasized to me that sailors (those days) were made of steel.”
Mark’s journal entry is an example of how shared experiences can help validate the significance of one’s life experience and the importance of relationships built from those experiences over the years. It has been noted that for many years, hospice programs have engaged patients in reflective “life reviews,” and the Vet-to-Vet volunteer program at San Diego Hospice helps to make that shared experience even more meaningful for patients who are veterans, by pairing them up with volunteers who are veterans themselves.
If you are a veteran or active duty military and would like more information on the Vet-to-Vet volunteer program at San Diego Hospice, please visit www.sdhospice.org/volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 619-278-6451.