LightBridge Hospice Community Foundation is the charitable arm of LightBridge Hospice and Palliative Care. The Foundation underwrites several supportive, uplifting, and amazing services for LightBridge’s hospice patients and their families.
One such program is the” We Honor Veterans Ceremony” which thanks veterans in hospice and/or palliative care for their military service. Of note is that LightBridge Hospice and Palliative Care years ago achieved the prestigious Level IV Partner status in the nationally acclaimed We Honor Veterans program and was one of the initial hospices in the nation to earn this designation.
Underwritten by donors to the LightBridge Hospice Community Foundation, the “We Honor Veterans Ceremony “is many times the only formal thanks that many veterans (now in their later years) receive for their service to our country, particularly during the Vietnam era.
For a We Honor Veterans Ceremony, Foundation volunteers from the military wear their dress uniforms and carry a service-specific pillow on which rests a pin for the patient. Additionally, there is a certificate of appreciation. The family is invited to the ceremony and often, the patient will rally for the presentation which is accompanied by a cake and music for the family members and guests.
An Air Force Veteran’s Honor Ceremony
With the challenges presented during this pandemic, families are even more focused to make sure their loved ones are well cared for and not alone in their final hours.
Let us introduce Wilbur Hawk, an Air Force veteran and father of 10 children from three marriages. During his active duty years, he was a radar technician working on F-14 jet engines and other aircraft including the Stealth bomber. Once out of the military, Wilbur worked as an electronics engineer helping companies such as IBM and GE in the ’60s and ’70s. When his father fell ill, he moved from San Diego to New York to take care of him, and eventually Wilbur moved back to San Diego.
Wilbur never gave up on reconnecting with children from his previous two marriages. Through social media and a story posted on Facebook, written by his son, Will Hawk III, Wilbur amazingly located three daughters from an earlier marriage after searching for them for 51 years.
His San Diego-based son, Will III, and Wilbur’s daughter- in- law, Jessica, told of his incredible love for his family and his constant assurance that each of his children was loved and special to him in their own unique ways. They, along with two other sons who live in San Diego County, lovingly took care of Wilbur in Will and Jessica’s home during the final weeks of his illness.
LightBridge Hospice came into this family’s circle through the company Will and Jessica started in 2012, Love Right Care (loverightcare.com). Through the work they do with their clients, the Hawks were introduced to LightBridge Hospice and knew of the high level of care the patients received when they were referred to Lightbridge for hospice or palliative services. Thus, at the end of Wilbur’s life, they turned to LightBridge for hospice services in their home.
When Will mentioned to the LightBridge social worker that he was looking for his father’s DD-214, the official discharge document that all veterans receive, the social worker mentioned the Honor Ceremony. She asked if the family would like to do this for their father. The family wholeheartedly endorsed the idea.
In early May of 2020, Wilbur’s condition rapidly declined, making it imperative that as many of his children as possible gather to see him and attend this wonderful ceremony for him. The local children pulled the family together from all over the country to be present for the special event for their father. From New York, Kansas, and Arizona, despite pandemic challenges, they arranged last minute flights to San Diego in less than a day
Amazingly, two of his three daughters and six of his sons were present in time for the event.
On the day of the Honor Ceremony, Wilbur was semi-comatose. For the ceremony, the LightBridge Hospice Community Foundation volunteer in the person of Navy Captain Wil Gorrie marched in wearing his dress blues, smartly clicked his heels and saluted at Wilbur’s bedside. As this generous, gracious Navy Captain volunteered his time to honor this veteran, amazingly, Wilbur’s eyes popped open. The Air Force veteran rallied and was able to respond to the Captain’s questions about his military service.
Wilbur was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a pin thanking him for his service. Surrounded, by his family, he took two bites of one of the celebratory cupcakes LightBridge provided, his last sustenance.
Having most of his family present, being honored for his service, and knowing his family felt loved and treasured, Wilbur died the following day. He would have been 81 on May 11.
When a memorial ceremony can be held for him at Miramar National Cemetery, the children will once again gather from many locales to honor their father.
When asked how he would want his father to be remembered, Will III said, “That he was an amazing man who loved his family, no matter the distance between him and his children-he loved every one of us equally.”
A wonderful legacy of love and service from a man whose family went to great efforts and expense to bring his children together for a final hug and tribute.