Every day our nation's military service men and women answer the call to service to protect our freedoms. In honor of Veterans Day, we join fellow Americans in giving thanks and appreciation to veterans.
The Tampa Bay area is home to the second highest population of veterans ages 55 and older. There are more than 85,000 veterans living in Pinellas County, which has one of the largest concentrations of WWII veterans in the U.S.
Specialized Veterans Care
We’re privileged to serve veterans across our spectrum of care and services. About one quarter of our Suncoast Hospice patients are veterans. Our Suncoast Hospice veterans program is currently ranked as a Level 3 Partner of We Honor Veterans, a program of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Our mission is to help our veteran patients feel acknowledged and honored for their service, find comfort and peace through our care and access resources and services for them and their families.
Our veteran relations liaison, Laurel “Daphni” Austin, connects veterans and their families to our care and other support they need. Our teams provide compassionate care with a specialized focus on resolving veterans’ internal struggles and conditions related to their military service. Many community veterans volunteer helping carry out our mission. This past fiscal year, our veteran volunteers provided more than 500 support visits at our patients’ homes, our care centers and other facilities.
Community Support & Honors
Another impactful part of our veterans program is how we band together with VAs (veterans affairs), VSOs (veterans service organizations) and community organizations to support and honor veterans.
|Ruth Hartley & Daphni Austin at Honor |
Flight Send-off in Clearwater
One of our special stories is Suncoast PACE participant and Navy veteran Ruth Hartley’s life-changing Honor Flight of West Central Florida trip to the Washington D.C. war memorials. Ruth, 80, is one of about ten veterans who stay active, healthy and independent living at home with the help of Suncoast PACE, a program of Suncoast Hospice. Suncoast PACE provides comprehensive health care and support services to Pinellas County seniors with chronic health conditions at its day center and medical clinic and participants' homes.
Ruth and her late husband, Jack, enlisted and met in the Navy. She specialized in aerography and served with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during the Korean War era. Back then married women weren’t allowed in, so she had to get out after marrying Jack and they moved to England and started a family while he continued to serve.
Going on Honor Flight was a high honor for Ruth. “It was a wonderful trip. Our group saw all the monuments – the Korean War was just beautiful and the WWII was absolutely breathtaking. I learned a lot and it made me proud to be an American. I think every veteran should go,” Ruth said.
Collecting veterans’ stories for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project is another meaningful way we honor veterans. Our staff and volunteers have recorded 30 veteran interviews, including our patients and others, for the library’s archives.
A 92-year-old female veteran who served in Normandy proudly shared her story during an interview with Jim Blincoe, a Suncoast Hospice Care Center North Pinellas and veteran volunteer, and Melissa Moré, Suncoast Hospice volunteer programs coordinator.
Jim said, “She was a natural born storyteller and had such a memory. She was one of the first women to join up and volunteer to go overseas. Her scrapbook was out of this world. When she finished the interview she said she felt so much better. It was quite an experience for us. It’s the human part of history that you don’t get reading in a textbook.”
Is your loved one a veteran in need of care? Call 727-467-7423 to learn more about our veterans care.
Want to serve veterans? Sign up online to volunteer.