Salute to a special volunteer

By arhospice on March 23rd, 2021

For more than two decades, Bill Waters served our country as a C-130 loadmaster. Now, as an Arkansas Hospice volunteer, he brings honor and recognition to his fellow veterans during their final days.

Bill originally trained as an Arkansas Hospice volunteer in 2003 and often provided caregivers with greatly needed breaks. In 2006, he had to step back from volunteer activities after accepting a new job. That changed in 2015 when Bill retired and returned to volunteering with Arkansas Hospice – oftentimes by helping with Arkansas Hospice’s Committed to Veterans program. In 2019, he was honored as Volunteer of the Year for the Greater Little Rock service area.


“Bill is an invaluable member of our team. Our veteran patients who allow us to recognize them are always appreciative, but it means even more when it’s coming from someone who can relate to their experiences. There’s not a dry eye in the house when Bill salutes them at the end of the ceremony. It’s always so special.”

Arkansas Hospice Director of Volunteers, Harriet Hawkins

Bill pictured with a female Air Force veteran showing the hand salute of honor
Arkansas Hospice 2019 Volunteer of the year, for Greater LIttle Rock, Bill Waters
Bill at We Honor Veterans Level 5 announcement for Arkansas Hospice

In these excerpts from an email interview, Bill describes his experiences as a volunteer and a veteran:

As a volunteer, how do you help recognize veterans?

BILL WATERS: When Arkansas Hospice began their veterans program under the guidance of the late “Doc” Kenser, I jumped at the chance to help bring recognition to what I consider an underserved segment of our population. Our program provides a simple but emotional ceremony (Vet to Vet, when possible) to acknowledge and express our country’s gratitude for the veteran’s service to America. On many occasions, especially with our Vietnam era veterans, this may be the first time they have ever been thanked for the sacrifices made and the burdens they carry. Each vet is presented with a table-top American flag, a framed recognition certificate and an “Honored Veteran” lapel pin. If the spouse is present, he or she is thanked for their support of the veteran and given a simple bracelet as a symbol of recognition.

What unique needs do you see that veterans have compared to other patients?

BILL WATERS: Veterans, whether they served 2 years or 40, have memories of that service that can be a source of pride or in some cases deep-seated pain. Our simple ceremony is a way for America to affirm that pride and, where needed, express our gratitude for the physical or emotional pain the vet has brought with them into this end-stage of life. This is the uniqueness our veterans program serves.

Are there any memorable experiences you’d like to share?

BILL WATERS:  Two come to mind. On one occasion, the ceremony was for an Air Force career veteran. The vets are encouraged to share anything about their service they’d like those present to know. As this man talked about his service in Vietnam, we discovered that he and I had not only been in country at the same time, but were actually on some of the same bases together during that time!!! My most recent and maybe most memorable experience was a ceremony for a 95-year-old World War II veteran who had been a prisoner of war in German territory. He tearfully shared the story of losing men in the POW camp and felt responsible for their deaths. There were many family and friends present and not a dry eye in the room. It was truly a special honor to celebrate someone who gave so much for this country.

If any of our readers would like to help, what can they do to help for our patients who are veterans?

BILL WATERS:  Simple … thank them for their service and the sacrifices they made helping to defend America and listen to their stories if they choose to share.

Would you mind giving us a sentence or two about your professional and/or military background?

BILL WATERS:  21 years active enlisted service as a C-130 loadmaster. This time was highlighted by my presence in Hanoi, North Vietnam for the release of our first POWs in 1973 during Operation Homecoming.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with Arkansas Hospice?

BILL WATERS:  I consider it an honor and privilege to support Arkansas Hospice in bringing comfort and dignity to our care receivers and their families – especially our veterans – in their final stage of life’s journey.  


Many thanks to Bill for his dedication to both our country and to Arkansas Hospice.

As we approach Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29, please join us in thanking and honoring our Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice. During this time of social distancing, a phone call, text or email to those who served would be a wonderful gesture of gratitude.

To learn more about Arkansas Hospice’s Committed to Veterans program, please visit https://www.arkansashospice.org/patients-families-caregivers/veterans. And to learn about Arkansas Hospice’s volunteer opportunities, please visit https://www.arkansashospice.org/volunteer.

14 Parkstone Circle | North Little Rock, AR 72116
(501) 748-3333 or Toll Free (877) 713-2348
contactus@arkansashospice.org
Arkanas Hospice Arkanas Hospice Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 71-0846826