RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Monument Health Military and Veteran’s Group began a couple years ago; they were looking for ways to impact the community and patients.
Operation Patriot — a program created by the Volunteer Auxiliary – created a way to identify veterans and military personnel when they were admitted to the hospital.
This provided an opportunity for Veteran Visits, where people from the group or an approved veteran volunteer, could visit with veteran patients and present them with a certificate and pin – thanking them for their service. But more importantly, giving the patient an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with a fellow veteran.
Sonya Randazzo, Preference Card Analyst and Chair of the Monument Health Military and Veterans Group, says, “During that visit you listen to their story about their time and their service and you can just get that one on one with another veteran caregiver – a lot of veterans like to share their story and so they like to have that other veteran to talk to so its just more meaningful for that patient to get that visit from a veteran when they are in our facilities.”
American flag magnets are put outside of veteran rooms for indication. The volunteer group consists of over 300 veteran caregivers.
Jennifer Lewellen, Monument Health Military and Veterans Group, Secretary, says, “My dad was in the hospital, I noticed how he acted when he had a veteran caregiver compared to when he didn’t, he just felt more comfortable being around another veteran, so I think of him when I do my visits.”
Operation Patriot had to be suspended because of the pandemic, but has recently returned to action. Along with a new a new aspect of the program called A Hero Walk – it was sparked after a veteran patient was going to hospice – the volunteers and staff send him off with a final salute.
So far the group has done one Hero Walk, which consists of a final tribute, where caregivers (and others depending on the situation) line up the hallways, offer a last salute, present arms, play taps and a flag is draped over the patient as they are transported out of the Hospital with dignity and honor.
Lewellen says, “You want to send them along with honor, and respect them. Respect our patients through all stages while they are here and that is one of the reasons why we started that.”
Two different flags were designed to be used based on best mode of transportation for the patient, so Hero Walks can be completed in all of the Monument Health facilities.
So far the Hero Walk is offered Rapid City Monument but will be implemented in the other Black Hills locations in the near future.
The Hero Walk is also applicable for emergency personnel. The family of first Hero Walk was so touched by the service, they contributed to a fund for the Hero Walk.
Vinyl flags were made by C & L sewing, so they can be cleaned after each use.