By arhospice on March 23rd, 2021
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
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.
I have nothing but the best things to say about Arkansas Hospice. They were so good to my Dad before he passed away. The love and care, compassion they showed to my dad was priceless. The nurses and CNA’s that took care of my Dad are the best and always be the best.
We are just starting our dad’s final journey and Arkansas Hospice has been a blessing. They’ve taught us so much already and provide as much support and comfort to the family as they do my dad. I’m grateful they’ll be walking this final path with us.
I love Arkansas Hospice. Every single employee has a heart of gold and takes the best care of their patients.
I would not hesitate at all to recommend this provider for anyone who is considering hospice care for themselves or for a loved one.
Arkansas Hospice took care of my Mom before she passed. It was my first experience with any hospice and I was amazed. They took such great care of her. They treated her with dignity and respect until the end.
So many thanks for the way your staff treated my very dear friend, Jeff, as he raced toward the finish line. Words can’t express my gratitude for helping us to care for him and keep him comfortable. Top-notch professionalism and immediate responses to requests for assistance.