Heartland Hospice is dedicated to serving those who have served our country. Taking the time and making the effort to care for and honor our Veterans when they reach end of life is the goal of our We Honor Veterans program. This program is a collaborative effort with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to help caregivers be better equipped to understand the unique needs of dying Veterans.
The Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer initiative plays an important role in the success of any We Honor Veterans program. At Heartland, our Veteran volunteers are essential to the delivery of quality hospice care for our Veteran patients. These volunteers have the ability to relate and connect with our patients who have served and help them to tell their stories through life review.
Master Sergeant Jake Kowalski, one of Heartland’s Vet-to-Vet volunteers, recently returned from his 4th deployment in Southwest Asia. Master Sergeant Kowalski is an Air Force National Guard, 128th Air Refueling Wing and has been in the military for 18 years. After he returned to the states and started to adjust to life back home, Master Sergeant Kowalski stopped by the Heartland Hospice Serving East Central Wisconsin office to deliver a gift.
It was with great humility and gratitude that he accepted the flag that had been flown on a combat mission over Southwest Asia in an F-22 Raptor, in honor of Heartland Hospice. When asked why he chose to honor us in this way, Master Sergeant Kowalski said, “Because of Heartland’s dedication in providing excellent care to local Veterans.”
Master Sergeant Kowalski also presented Heartland with a challenge coin that his unit designed. “These coins are a way to show appreciation and are presented to people for a job well done” he explained. “Collections of challenge coins are often displayed at desks or on a wall so others can observe them as a roadmap of where the coin holder has been.”
In order to properly display the flag, it was taken to the local American Legion Trier-Puddy Post #75 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Greg Teichmiller, Vietnam Army Veteran and member of the Executive Board for the Legion, offered to fold the flag in the traditional triangle. Greg described the meaning behind the folding of the flag as representing the tri-cornered hat worn by the soldiers who served under George Washington. Greg has a wealth of knowledge about the history of the American Legion and Veteran activities in the area.
The flag and certificate are now proudly displayed in the front entryway at Heartland’s office. It serves as a reminder that Heartland Hospice is truly honored to care for Veterans and their families.