All a Veteran wants from his or her time in the military is to be acknowledged for their service and the enormous sacrifice they made for this country,” shared retired U.S. Army Colonel Michael Angelo. Thanks to Michael, 90 Veterans and their spouses, to date, have been recognized and honored through Hospice & Community Care’s Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program. Our volunteers did 542 pinnings in 2018.
How it All Began
Before lending his time as a Hospice & Community Care volunteer, Michael was serving our country in combat and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Drafted in 1966 as a private, Michael attended Artillery Officer Candidate School at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma and upon graduation was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1967. He served for more than 35 years in uniform with more than 28 years of active duty, and retired from the United States Army in February 2004 as a Colonel, Signal Corp with a specialty in computers.
Prior to retirement, Michael spent more than 17 consecutive years working at the Pentagon at various Department of Defense and Secretary of Army levels. In 2001, he was working at the Pentagon when United Airlines flight 77 struck on September 11, and was to be in the meeting where the plane crashed. Sadly, he lost 23 of his friends that day, but, thanks to a phone call from his son two minutes before the crash, Michael’s life was spared.
“I truly believe [my son] saved my life,” commented Michael. This was one of many situations during his time of service that prompted Michael to give back to others after retirement.
What is the Veteran-to-Veteran program?
Hospice & Community Care’s Veteran-to-Veteran program pairs volunteers who are Veterans with Veteran Hospice patients. These volunteers have the unique ability to relate and connect with each patient, creating an environment open to healing and life review.
Special Pinning Ceremonies, presenting military pins, service certificates and flags, to recognize and thank Veterans for their service are also offered to patients and their families.
Over his two years of volunteering, Michael has encountered some interesting and memorable Pinning Ceremonies. Michael had the chance to pin a 94-year-old Army Veteran who was at Normandy on “D Day” and only 17 years old. The young soldiers got hung up on the beach and was wounded, and that evening the Germans stormed the beach to ensure all enemy soldiers were dead. The solider was smart enough to place a dead body over him to keep from being killed. “I am amazed that a 17-year-old would be that smart to save his life,” commented Michael.
He also had a chance to pin a Silver Star recipient. A 95-year-old WWII Army Veteran was in a tank in a landing craft, an amphibious assault craft for landing tanks on beaches, which dropped 20 feet to the bottom of the ocean. The young solider was able to get out and save all five of his comrades from drowning.
“I am amazed that there are so many heroes living among us who have served, been wounded, received Silver Stars, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts,” shared Michael. “Most cherish their service time and go about everyday life after their service,” shared Michael.
“During the Pinning Ceremonies, I also thank the spouses for their support,” commented Michael. When Michael would leave for duty, which at times was requested short notice, his wife of 51 years would take care of their children and household. “They are the real heroes,” commented Michael.
“They deserve to be recognized and honored for their sacrifice, too.” Michael shared with a laugh that when he was named “Colonel” the Army made his wife an honorary Brigadier General, which is one rank higher than Colonel, because of her continued support of her husband and of his service to our country.
How to Get Involved
“My daughter, Michelle Jones, works at the Bob Fryer & Family Inpatient Center and got me involved in the program,” commented Michael. “It’s so neat to see how Hospice & Community Care honors Veterans in such a dignified way. These Veterans have done everything asked of them and I feel blessed to be able to provide some comfort, respect and compassion to these deserving individuals.”
Most of Michael’s volunteering and Pinning Ceremonies take place in the Inpatient Center where he gets to spend a lot of time with Veterans and their family members. Michael shared with a smile, when he’s at the Inpatient Center he also gets to see his daughter, which is always special. “It is great when the Vet is awake and talkative,” commented Michael. “They enjoy telling me their stories and experiences from the military. Often times, as we start talking, they will tell stories that even their loved ones have never heard, which provides great comfort to their family members. Plus, it allows me to feel a real sense of connection with the Veterans.”