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Honoring Veterans in the Community

Independence Day often goes hand in hand with barbecues, basking in the sun at the beach, visiting friends and family and watching fireworks displays. The Fourth of July is also a day to reflect and remember veterans — the men and women who serve and those who gave their lives so we could enjoy our freedom. For Spring Hill residents Sherry and Richard Whitford, honoring veterans doesn’t just occur on July 4. It is actually their daily mission.

Veteran Pinning Tally

The Whitfords have been involved in nearly all aspects of the volunteer program at HPH Hospice but were particularly drawn to the We Honor Veterans program. To date, Sherry and Richard have participated in more than 4,250 We Honor Veterans pinnings since 2009. You may be wondering where the inspiration comes from being so involved with the often-moving pinning ceremonies? It springs from Richard’s service in Vietnam.

“I’m not career military, but I got involved because what I go through isn’t anywhere close to what those guys went through,” he shared. “Sherry and I do it for the patient/resident but also for the family to give them something they can keep forever.”

honoring veteransAt veteran pinnings, the Whitfords provide veterans with a personalized certificate, a We Honor Veterans pin and a star from a retired American flag. Each star includes the following message: I am part of our American flag that has flown over a home in Florida. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten. 

“Families are so touched and grateful for the pinning ceremonies. During the pinnings, patients will often share short stories about what happened during their years of military service — stories their loved ones may have never heard before,” added Sherry.

Dedicated to Honoring Veterans in the Community

The Whitfords do not limit honoring veterans to only HPH Hospice patients. They also honor veterans in the community. “We feel strongly about HPH Hospice’s service to the community. By honoring veterans at various locations throughout the area, we are saying thank you to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much so that we can be free,” explained Sherry.

At Atria Evergreen Woods in Spring Hill, Sherry and Richard demonstrated how they are honoring veterans by performing a community pinning of more than 75 residents.

For the Whitfords, it is always important for all attendees to understand the definition of what makes a person a veteran. According to Sherry, “A veteran can be someone on active duty, discharged, retired or reserved. A veteran is someone who wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his or her own life. We thank veterans from the bottom of our hearts for the love given for our country.”

We Honor Veterans Program

At Chapters Health System, we recognize the unique needs of America’s veterans and their families. So we joined forces with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to become a proud partner in the We Honor Veterans program at its highest designation, Level Four.

Veteran volunteers provide a unique connection to other veterans at the end of life. Veteran volunteers can provide companionship by:

  • Listening to patients as they reminisce
  • Recording their stories
  • Documenting their stories in a Legacy booklet
  • Helping connect to the Veterans History Project
  • Honoring veterans in pinning ceremonies, which provides gratitude and appreciation for time served

How to Volunteer

If you are a veteran and have a few hours a month to help support other veterans at the end of life, please consider becoming a volunteer for Chapters Health at any of our affiliates — Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice  and LifePath Hospice — in Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties. It’s as easy as filling out an application, just click here.

At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

Veteran Pinning Among the Magnolias

Located in Lutz, Magnolia Manor Assisted Living was the recent site for the veteran pinning of LifePath Hospice patient Robert Hills. Chaplain Mathai Abraham performed the ceremony with Robert’s son, Mike, in attendance. Mike shared the following information about his father and how he became involved in the U.S. Coast Guard:

Born in 1937 in Regina, Saskatchewan, my father always had a love for adventure and the outdoors. He started Great Lakes Divers in Buffalo, New York, in 1967 and taught scuba diving, and yes, ice diving in the chilly waters of Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Shipwreck diving was his specialty and over the years, he explored many wrecks across the Great Lakes. In 1999, he and Annetta moved to Key Largo, Florida, with a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with daily spectacular sunsets, diving and fishing. Dad became active with U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 13-8 in Islamorada and eventually was made Flotilla Commander in 2009. He was Coxswain of his 38′ Bayliner “Ocean Fox” with George Burger, Dewy Jackson, Joe Penar and Jim Murphy. My father initiated “Helo-Ops” training with Station Miami for the Flotilla, which still continues today about six times per month.

No matter the war or military action, whether Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard or Merchant Marines, whether combat era or peacetime, those who pledged their service to our country are always recognized and honored at the affiliates of Chapters Health.




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