Sometimes, volunteers receive the recognition they deserve for their work within the community.
For the past three years, two retired U.S. Army officers have been volunteering their time with Cross Timbers Hospice. CW3 (Ret.) Clinton Holt and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Janet Banks have now participated in almost 100 ceremonies as part of Cross Timbers Hospice’s We Honor Veterans Program.
At the end of January, the
Oklahoma Hospice and Palliative Care Association selected the pair as volunteers of the year. Shelly Murray, volunteer coordinator at Cross Timbers Hospice, nominated the duo at the end of October.
“Every year, the OHPCA recognize different members that make up a hospice team,” Murray said. “Hospices across the state will nominate somebody from their hospice to receive that recognition. I don’t know how many volunteers were nominated from other hospices but there were several. The board of directors for the association reviews all of the nominees and chooses.”
Holt said the program focuses on all veterans regardless of the period in which they served.
“We don’t discriminate between types of veterans,” Holt said. “There are many different types of veterans.”
Holt said Banks, who served during peacetime, was no less a veteran than he was having served in Vietnam.
“We tell them ‘a veteran is anyone who ever put the uniform on.’ We don’t care. We’re all the same,” Holt said.
Holt and Banks perform the ceremonies for veterans at their home, nursing home, or at the veterans center. One thing that makes them recognizable to the veterans is their older uniforms.
“The uniform we’re wearing is the one that we retired in,” Banks said. “It’s not the newer ones. It’s the one they recognize,” Banks said.
“When they see the uniforms they relate to that uniform, even if they were in a different branch,” Holt said. “When we first walk in, they recognize the things on our chest and what the things on our shoulders mean, and they make a connection there.”
Holt said that they’ve had World War II veterans salute them because they recognize the pair as officers, while most of the veterans are enlisted men.
Both agree that it helps that they are close in age to many of the veterans who are receiving the ceremony. It opens up the veterans and makes them want to talk more. Sometimes the veteran will start telling stories they never previously shared with their families.
“They don’t know what that veteran did because the veteran would never tell them,” Holt said. “I think the family gets as much out of this as the veteran does.”
“We also try to help the family,” Banks said. “Clinton and I are very adamant that every veteran deserves a flag and military honors at their funeral. So we try to help the family locate the discharge papers and know what do with them.”
Though We Honor Veterans first began in 2011, Murray said there is a recognizable difference since the duo started participating.
“The program took on a whole new meaning since they have been participating,” Murray said.