SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
While May is Military Appreciation Month, Covid-19 has forced cancellations to several events honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans and military families. Yet one group of dedicated volunteers is continuing to safely recognize our veterans’ heroism during the pandemic. That group is Tidewell Hospice, who serves more than 400 veterans a month.
“We do have a few volunteer veterans when they’re allowed and when it’s permitted in an appropriate environment where we screen very carefully before they go. They are still going out and doing the ceremonies; they’re wearing a mask, they’re wearing gloves. So, it’s a very different world for them,” says Stacie Groff, Vice President of Specialized Services with Tidewell Hospice.
These volunteers, who are veterans themselves, represent Tidewell Honors Veterans, a comprehensive program of Tidewell Hospice focused on respectfully celebrating veterans and providing care that recognizes the unique challenges that may exist in military families.
“Many of the veterans that I do the pinning’s on never got acknowledgment for their service, and now they are terminally ill and who’s going to pay tribute to them,” says John Joly, a volunteer veteran for Tidewell Hospice.
After speaking with Joly, he shared a memorable experience with a veteran that he honored, and say’s it’s something he’ll never forget.
"I had one that was nearing death to be blunt and I saluted him, and he got his hand up. It took him about 3 minutes, but when I left, he had a smile on his face," says Joly.
In the effort to reduce large gatherings for veteran ceremonies, Tidewell Services have adapted to virtual meetings for families who want to celebrate safely during a veterans ceremony.
Groff states, "We're getting a lot of thank you letters from people and family members that know that we've gone and done it. We're using Skype and Zoom and those types of things. Usually in these ceremonies you end up with 10 or 15 family members in a room while the ceremony is happening, that's obviously not happening now. So, we're getting a little more creative about how we can bring the families into this."
Whether it’s via video chat, phone, email or in person, a thank you goes a long way for a veteran who has served our wonderful nation.
“I think the spirit of the volunteers who do this, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. It’s extremely important to pay tribute to them, to thank them for their service,” says Joly.
For more information on the Tidewell Honoring Veterans program please visit