Ambercare honors Valencia County veterans

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It's never too late to say, "Thank you."

And one program, offered through Ambercare in Belen, is making sure veterans, who served in the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam, are honored.

The We Honor Veterans Program was established to improve end-of-life care for American veterans and increase access to hospital services, according to its website.

Edward Candelaria, Ambercare's employee assistance director, said he hopes and prays that it's not too late to show these veterans appreciation for their sacrifice.

"It doesn't replace that they were never told 'thank you,' but it's never too late to recognize what they did," Candelaria said.

Veterans, from ages 55 to 90, were pushed under the rug for their service in the World Wars, Vietnam and Korea after being discharged, Candelaria said.

"They made sacrifices that we don't talk about," he said. "We all benefited at the time under the blanket of freedom that they provided for us with their service."

When veterans returned from their tours, they weren't shown appreciation and veterans took note of that.

"They didn't think we appreciated them. One veteran told me, 'I remember that people didn't thank me, welcome me or make me feel at home,'" he said.

Ambercare, which provides home health care, hospice, medical equipment and personal care services, has offered the We Honor Veterans Program to veterans enrolled in their hospice services for more than two years.

"We know we needed to do something that's not only needed, but it's a wonderful thing," Candelaria said.

Out of 30 to 35 patients enrolled in Ambercare's hospice at a time, about three to six are veterans, Candelaria said. In total, 24 Valencia County veterans have been honored.

As part of the program, Ambercare staff provide veteran patients with a ceremony at a place of their choice. The patient, family, friends and Ambercare veterans gather for an "emotionally charged hour" to honor the veteran's service, said Candelaria, a veteran with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

The ceremony rejuvenates terminally ill veterans and can stir a reaction out of unresponsive patients. Their faces light up, tears spring to their eyes and they're happy, Candelaria described.

"It has a very positive, powerful end result," he said. "It's a beautiful thing to see."

The veterans are saluted by veterans, thanked for their service, prayed for, receive a certificate of appreciation and a We Honor You veteran pin in front of the American flag.

We Honor Veterans Program is open to any Valencia County veteran, who served in the World Wars, Korea or Vietnam, needing to be honored for their service.

"We're more than happy to make sure it happens," Candelaria said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.