MEDINA — More than 200 veterans enjoyed lunch and participated in a simply ceremony that carried a bigger message of service appreciation Wednesday.
The highlight of the event was a pinning ceremony, where each veteran was recognized for his or her service and presented with a commemorative lapel pin issued by the Ohio Hospice Veteran Partnership.
As the name of each past military member was read Wednesday, men and women, both old and young who share the common bond of service, stood at attention, if they could, and waited while someone came to their table and placed a pin on their lapel, shirt collar or chest.
It was a gesture just a few seconds long that was repeated dozens of times.
Hospice of the Western Reserve and Hospice of Medina County sponsored the luncheon at Williams on the Lake for the veterans and their family members.
Nathan Gradisher, provider relations manager for Hospice of the Western Reserve, said in his opening comments his organization was grateful, honored and humbled by the veterans in attendance.
Sponsoring the luncheon and giving the veterans recognition pins are “small tokens of appreciation.”
Bill Finn, president and CEO of Hospice of the Western Reserve, said his organization cared for about 300 Vietnam veterans last year after securing about $1 million in funding from the federal government.
“We’re going to lead the way (to help Vietnam veterans),” he said.
The luncheon featured two keynote speakers: Medina’s Sue Taylor, an Army nurse in the Vietnam War, and Sean Ennis, a board member and trustee with Honor Flight Cleveland.
Honor Flight Cleveland flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials and witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Ennis said for many, it’s the trip of a lifetime.
He said it routinely flies between 150 and 175 veterans to the nation’s capital on about seven trips per year. Everything is covered through donations for the veterans.
Ennis said terminally ill veterans, who he terms “their last chance,” get priority on the flights.
Once in Washington, they visit the World War II memorial, Korean War memorial and the Vietnam Wall.
“The trips make you feel good about yourself,” he said.
For information on possible trips, visit honorflightcleveland.com.
Taylor, a former teacher for Medina Schools for more than 20 years, served in the U.S. Army. During her time of service, she provided compassionate care for countless patients as a Vietnam era nurse, retiring as a captain. She met her future husband, Col. Dave Taylor, while serving in the military. When she met him, his leg was in a full cast and he was walking on crutches.
Soon after arriving at Fort Dix, New Jersey, she was told that “war is hell” and that she’d see “terror.” Taylor found those messages to be true.
“We send able-bodied men off to war,” she said. “That can change in an instant. Everyone leaves a piece of their soul on that battlefield.”
She got emotional at the podium when she read an essay written by her husband, which described a trip to the Vietnam Wall with his three grandsons. Dave Taylor showed his grandsons the names of three soldiers who died under his watch in Vietnam, which struck a chord with the boys, she said.