by Malarie Allen, Development Coordinator

The call came through the speakers loud and clear, like the sound of “Taps” in a mournful farewell. “Stars and Stripes Tribute in Shepherd’s Cove.”

In mere minutes, the hallway of Shepherd’s Cove, Hospice of Marshall County’s inpatient facility, was lined with family members, friends and Hospice of Marshall County staff, all of whom came to say goodbye.

The sniffles of stifled cries and silent prayers echoed throughout the hallway. As his body emerged from the room, wheeled on a gurney and draped with an American flag, the family said goodbye to a man they obviously loved dearly. With hands over hearts, staff gave a final salute to a man they had cared for only a short time.

Others, like myself, bid farewell to someone they never knew, but that didn’t matter. He didn’t know us when he fought for our freedom. You see, this was a no ordinary man. He was a hero, a patriot to the end.

He was a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, and the flag that flew high above him during his military service no doubt continued to wave in his heart throughout his life. Now in death, it adorned his body as a cloak bearing his lasting legacy of service.

I had seen this precious family in Shepherd’s Cove many times when I briefly passed through the halls. We never spoke more than a brief hello and a smile, but they were there. Day in and day out, they stood by their loved one to the very end. Now I stood with them, trying to provide what little prayer support I could.

It was my first time to witness the touching Stars and Stripes Tribute since starting my career here five months ago.

Before leaving the facility that had become a homelike haven to this family, trained Shepherd’s Cove staff folded the flag military style and presented it to the grieving family with a promise of honor, respect and prayer on their hero’s behalf.

Veterans hold a special place in the hearts of the American people and no less the hearts of us here at Hospice of Marshall County–Shepherd’s Cove. After all, it is because of these brave men and women that we can still be Americans today. With courage and strength, our veterans faced physical, mental and spiritual trials to protect our way of life. As they face the end of their life, we do our best to make sure they can leave this world in peace, comfort and dignity.

The Stars and Stripes Tribute is just one ritual designed especially for veteran patients who die in Shepherd’s Cove, as a way to honor their legacy of service. As a member of the We Honor Veterans Program, instituted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Hospice of Marshall County–Shepherd’s Cove takes every opportunity to serve and honor the veterans in our community, including those in and out of our care.

On this Veteran’s Day, we offer our humble gratitude to those willing to risk their lives for our freedom. To me, they are the American dream.