This week is National Volunteer Week! As many of you know, the Indianapolis community has some wonderful volunteers that make a huge impact. In honor of this week, we would like to introduce you to IU Health Hospice and their amazing volunteers in the We Honor Veterans program.
We Honor Veterans is a national awareness campaign presented by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs. One of the main goals of the campaign is to support successful and lasting VA-hospice relationships through Hospice-Veteran Partnerships.
Although the program has a number of great volunteers, three that are especially outstanding are Al Kozimor, Alan Droege and Joe Bierce. All are former veterans and feel a connection to the patients they see. All three men also feel it is a “calling” of them to serve others.
Al Kozimor served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He became involved with IU Health Hospice in 1996 as a respite volunteer. Respite volunteer means the volunteer provides relief to the caregiver. He felt a calling to serve others after the loss of his mother. Al enjoys the patient contact aspect of volunteering and developing relationships with those in need.
One of his fondest memories is visiting with a patient who was a Korean War Vet. The patient was bedridden, but one of his favorite things to do was to simply get out of the house, a luxury most of us take for granted. Although difficult, Al would help the patient into his wheelchair and then into a van. Al would then take him to get lunch or to the park. Although their time together was short, the patient developed a strong bond with Al and confided in him as a friend.
Alan Droege, served as a Sergeant in the Air Force. Alan became a volunteer with IU Health Hospice after retiring from Methodist Hospital where he worked as a radiologist for 40 years. Alan had served in the Vietnam War as an X-ray Technologist in the Air Force.
Alan’s passion for volunteerism stems from his love of working with people. He enjoys working with the nurses who he is always learning from. He also enjoys traveling around Indianapolis and discovering parts of the City he had never known about. Not only does Alan provide relief to caregivers and companionship to his patients. He also gives his patients haircuts and for the ladies…manicures!
Many Vets from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, they did not receive the recognition deserved for the brave service they did for their country. Being a Vet of the Vietnam War, Alan knows this first hand. Alan makes sure to tell every patient he has that has served in the Vietnam War or Korean War “Welcome Back Soldier or Airman.”
“You can see their face light up, because they never got that,” said Alan.
Joe Bierce served in the Army as a Specialist 5th Class. Joe is now in his 27th year of being a volunteer at IU Health Hospice. After losing several people close to him, Joe felt a disconnect between care providers and the family. When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the mid 80’s, Joe noticed a difference in the care at IU Health, at the time called Methodist Hospital. Methodist Hospital was the site of the first in-house hospice in the state. The doctors were more personable and the nurses made the family apart of the care his father received. After the death of his father, Joe decided to become involved with IU Health Hospice.
Required to wait 1 year after the loss of a loved one, Joe took the 42 hour training in 1986 and has been volunteering ever since. He not only serves as a respite volunteer, but also works in the office, assists the nursing staff and serves as a facilitator for the Cancer Family Support Group.
No part of being a volunteer stands out as any less or any greater for Joe. He enjoys interacting with people, being able to help assist families where nurses and physicians sometimes can’t and giving people joy.
“I’d like to think if someone only has a few days left, they were able to do some things they enjoyed,” said Joe.
One of the most moving acts these men perform as part of We Honor Veterans is a pinning ceremony. In a pinning ceremony, a veteran pins another to publicly acknowledge the service and sacrifice made by the veteran and his or her family. These can be very emotional ceremonies, as many of these men and women are quite ill. At the end of the pinning the Veteran performing the service will salute the other. Although many are ill, they will do everything in their power to salute back.
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To find out more about We Honor Veterans visit: