The COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many services for the seriously ill, including Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program. Because of the virus, Gilchrist has temporarily suspended veteran volunteer visits to patients. This initially put a halt to our Salute to Service tributes that honor anyone who has served in the military along with their families. But Gilchrist’s team moved quickly to implement virtual Salute to Service tributes, allowing these moving ceremonies to continue.
First, Gilchrist’s social workers and chaplains ask veterans and their families if they would like to be honored with a Salute to Service tribute. If the answer is yes, the staff member contacts one of our military veteran volunteers to help prepare for the virtual ceremony. The team assembles a “salute kit,” which consists of a pin for the veteran, a patriotic scarf and pin for the spouse, a handmade lap blanket, a ‘Veteran’ door sign and a “Thank you for your service” card made by students.
While volunteers are not permitted to visit patients at this time, Gilchrist nurses and social workers are. During one of these visits, a Gilchrist team member takes the salute kit to the veteran’s home, and the family decides on a date and time for the tribute. On the chosen day, the Gilchrist team member visits the veteran’s home and helps the family set up FaceTime or Zoom with the military volunteer, who conducts the virtual Salute to Service.
It has been working beautifully! With these virtual salutes, Gilchrist can continue to honor our veterans, and families can experience this moving tribute to their loved one. Our volunteers say that conducting these salutes has been just as meaningful to them. They are a dedicated group that felt helpless when they initially thought these tributes could not continue. Virtual Salutes to Service are proving to be a creative way to maintain one of the key initiatives of the We Honor Veterans Program.
We say to all veterans and active military, “Thank you for your service!” And as Memorial Day is upon us, we honor all the men and women who have died in military service to their country.
To learn more about Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, visit gilchristcares.org/whv.