Archives: Veterans

Posts

Homeland Hospice’s We Honor Veterans Program Receives Four-Star Ranking

test

 

Homeland Hospice recently earned its fourth star out of a five-star ranking system for its quality of care for veterans through the national We Honor Veterans program. We Honor Veterans, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

“We are honored to recognize the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” says Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “The program is part of our organization’s tradition of caring for those who have bravely served our country.”

Homeland was founded 155 years ago as the Society for the Home for the Friendless to help women and children destitute in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Homeland’s involvement in the We Honor Veterans program began nine years ago to recognize the service of veterans during their end-of-life journey. Hospice organizations earn their “stars” by completing education and engagement activities for each level. The star rating system provides Department of Veterans Affairs staff, as well as local veterans, an easy way to identify hospice organizations that are committed to providing compassionate care specific to the needs of veterans and their families.

As a We Honor Veterans partner, Homeland has opportunities to learn from other organizations as well as access a bank of valuable resources like information on pinning ceremonies, which is one of the unique ways Homeland honors veterans.

“The program is an excellent source of new ideas for us,” Laurie says. “We continue to find innovative ways to improve our work and educate our staff to better serve our veterans.”

Through its collaboration with the We Honor Veterans program, Homeland has formed a strong working relationship with the Lebanon VA Medical Center and participates in the National Wreaths Across America Day program. Each December, Homeland partners with the Dauphin County Coroner’s Office to place ceremonial wreaths and flags representing each branch of the military, soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war on the fence outlining the Dauphin County Cemetery, also known as a Potter’s Field. Nationally, wreath-laying ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as more than 2,500 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

While Homeland Hospice is proud of its four-star ranking, the organization has already begun working to expand its efforts to earn five stars. This work includes expanding partnerships within the community and serving as a mentor to other hospice organizations that are new to the program.

“I am humbled by the sacrifices of our veterans,” Laurie adds. “I look forward to enhancing our work and spreading the news about this inspiring program.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

 

Homeland Participates in Wreaths Across America Day

test

hanging a wreath to honor veterans

Every day, hundreds of people drive by the Dauphin County Cemetery, also known as a potter’s field, not knowing the importance of this humble site or the stories of the people buried there. A simple stone with the words “Every life has a story” marks the entrance to the cemetery. For Homeland Hospice these five words represent the dignity each life deserves. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

The Dauphin County Cemetery serves as the final resting place for more than 800 unclaimed remains. World War II Navy Veteran Frank Bakanus, Jr., from Derry Township is buried here. He is the only known veteran who has been identified and given a veteran marker on his grave.

On December 17, Frank and all of the unidentified veterans interred at the cemetery were remembered for their service during a wreath-laying ceremony. Homeland Hospice volunteers and staff placed ceremonial wreaths and flags representing each branch of the military, soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war on the fence outlining the cemetery. Individual wreaths were placed throughout the cemetery. It has become a beloved tradition to place a special wreath on Frank’s grave marker.

homeland honors america's veterans with wreaths“Everyone buried here was someone’s son or daughter,” Laurie Murry, volunteer coordinator for Homeland Hospice says. “It’s our privilege to honor their memory and sacrifice.”

For the past several years Homeland Hospice has partnered with the Dauphin County Coroner’s Office in the National Wreaths Across America Day held in December. Through the program, wreath-laying ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as more than 2,500 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

Suzanne Sheaffer with the Dauphin County Coroner’s Office serves as the coordinator for the program. She launched the Wreaths Across America Day project at the cemetery several years ago after visiting the site and noticing Frank’s grave marker. As a Gold Star mother, this project has a special place in her heart.

“I think about the sacrifice each veteran has made for our country,” Suzanne says. “On this special day, we bring something amazing to this humble site in their honor.”

The team at Homeland Hospice selected the Dauphin County Cemetery because of its similar mission and history with Homeland. One of the earliest markers at the cemetery is dated July 20, 1870. It began and remains a final resting place for individuals who have nowhere else to go.

Homeland’s story begins during the aftermath of the Civil War. Battlefield casualties were not the only human losses of that conflict, as soldiers’ wives, widows, and parents struggled to provide for dependent family members without the support of dead and disabled husbands and sons. Representatives from nine churches concluded safe shelter for women and children was needed. The “Society for the Home for the Friendless” was formally chartered in May of 1867.

grave reading 'every life has a story'As Homeland celebrates its 155th anniversary next year, the organization’s commitment to our region’s must vulnerable residents continues. Through Wreaths Across America, Homeland honors and remembers the dignity and beauty each life brings to our community.

“Homeland staff and volunteers help make the cemetery look beautiful for the holidays,” Suzanne says. “It is a pleasure to partner with the Homeland team.”

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Donald McClarren: The Hero Next Door

test

United States Air Force and Navy veteran Donald McClarrenBravery and honor are words reserved for the select few who have risked their lives in service of our country. For United States Air Force and Navy veteran Donald McClarren of Boiling Springs these are the words he lived by during his time as a Prisoner of War in North Korea. A humble and soft-spoken man, Donald may dismiss the word hero to describe him, but he is all of this and more to those who know and served with him.

Homeland Hospice recently recognized Donald with a special pin and certificate through the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. Homeland Chaplain John Good leads the program. (John was previously joined in leading the program by Chaplain Mark P. Harris, M.A., M.Div., Spiritual Counselor at Homeland Hospice and a former hospital corpsman, who passed away in 2021.)

As a young man growing up in Johnstown, Donald wanted to do his part to serve our country. He joined the Air Force in 1954 where he was trained in cryptography and worked as a communications technician for 10 years. After completing his time with the Air Force, Donald wanted to return to service as tensions between the United States and Korea and Vietnam were heating up.

“At the time, the Air Force didn’t have openings in my field,” Donald says. “I walked across the building to the Naval recruiting office and joined that day.”

Donald continued deciphering encrypted messages with the Navy, spending time around the world. His life and the history of our country were forever changed on January 23, 1968 when his ship, the USS Pueblo, was attacked and captured in the Sea of Japan by the North Korean military.

The Pueblo was on a peaceful mission to monitor, record and analyze wireless communications. On board were 83 servicemen, primarily trained as communications technicians. When the ship came under attack by North Korean PT boats, submarine chasers and an aircraft, the Pueblo did not fire back as its one .50-caliber machine gun was under deck. Trying to place the gun in firing position would put the men in peril. One crew member died while destroying classified materials. The others were taken prisoners.

From January to December of 1968, Donald and his fellow crew mates were routinely interrogated and tortured. At the time, the United States Department of Defense did not recognize the members of the Pueblo as Prisoners of War.

“Every day I thought about my father and how he was coping,” Donald says. “I worried my captivity would kill him.”

At one point in his imprisonment, the Pueblo crew was shown a propaganda piece of a North Korean sports team competing in England. Part of the news story included footage of everyday life in England. In one frame, an English businessman looked into the camera and raised his middle finger in protest.

“Our guards asked us what this meant,” Donald says with a smile. “We said it was a Hawaiian good luck sign.”

Days later, the guards took photos of the crew to send back to their families to assure them the servicemen were healthy and well-cared for under the North Korean’s watch. In every photo, crewmembers discreetly displayed the “Hawaiian good luck sign” in silent protest.

As the photos made their way to friends and family stateside they were printed in a small town newspaper. Eventually the story and photos were picked up by Time International, which made its way into the hands of the North Korean military, including the guards of the Pueblo’s crew.

“We had the worst week of our lives after the guards read the magazine,” Donald adds. “Somehow we made it.”

Not long after the Time International story ran, the interrogations and beatings stopped, and the soldiers learned they were going home. Donald and his crewmates were taken to the 38th parallel, a popular name given to latitude 38 degrees north, which is the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

“I didn’t believe it was true until I crossed the line into South Korea,” Donald says. “I was finally free.”

While the crew of the Pueblo was free, part of their story and the destiny of their beloved ship remained entwined with North Korea. Donald went on to finish his naval career, retiring as a recruiter while stationed in Montana. The ship’s skipper Commander Lloyd Bucher nearly faced a court-martial trial based on his decision not to secure the machine gun under deck and retaliate. The Navy eventually dropped the proceedings citing the mental toil the crew had already endured.

“Commander Bucher had the support of the entire crew,” Donald says. “He was a good man who put our safety first.”

As for the USS Pueblo, it is still held by North Korea today. Pueblo is the only ship in the U.S. Navy still on the commissioned roster that is held captive.

Twenty-two years after Donald and his fellow crew mates were taken captive; they were finally recognized as Prisoners of War. Donald received the Prisoner of War Medal and Combat Action Ribbon for his valor in service to our country.

 

The Remarkable Life of Anna Weinfurter, WWII Veteran

test

Former Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Anna WeinfurterA remarkable life is not given. It is earned through service above oneself and demonstrations of courage and compassion in extraordinary times. Anna Weinfurter’s journey began in Montana and took her across the country while serving in the United States Navy during World War II. While her uniform has been retired for decades, she continues to embody valor, honor and kindness.

Former Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Anna Weinfurter is an example of a remarkable life earned by rising to life’s challenges with bravery and faith.

Homeland Hospice recently recognized Anna, age 98 of Carlisle, with a special pin and certificate through the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

In addition, Chaplain Mark P. Harris, M.A., M.Div., Spiritual Counselor at Homeland Hospice and a former hospital corpsman, presented Anna with an authentic rank badge from her time in the Navy.

“I haven’t seen or touched a badge like this in so long,” Anna says with tears in her eyes. “I’m so happy to hold this again.”

As the daughter of homesteaders in Montana, Anna grew up surrounded by animals and acres of farmland. She was one of nine children in a close-knit family. After high school, Anna became a teacher. Her life, and the history of our country, changed when the United States entered WWII in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

“I was 20 when I entered the Navy,” Anna says. “My eldest brother chose the Navy and I was determined to follow in his footsteps.”

Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Anna WeinfurterAnna left the family farm for the first time in her life to report for duty in Seattle, Washington in the spring of 1942. She was assigned to Hunter’s College in New York City to complete basic training. Anna and her fellow soldiers traveled by “troop train” from Seattle to New York. A troop train solely transported military personnel. At the time, soldiers were segregated by rank and gender. During the day, Anna completed physical exercises, which included running alongside the train. At night, the train continued its journey to New York while the soldiers slept.

While at Hunter’s College, Anna had a chance encounter with her eldest brother, whose ship was docked in New York City for the weekend. Anna’s brother spotted her in a parade held to promote United States savings bonds. That weekend, Anna and her brother were guests of a local family who prepared an authentic Italian dinner. For Anna, this was her first experience eating food that didn’t come from her family’s farm.

“I was so surprised to see my brother and overwhelmed by the hospitality,” Anna says. “It was an unforgettable night.”

Following basic training, Anna once again traveled by train to Long Beach, California where she received pharmacist training, which is part of the scope of work of a hospital corpsman. As caregivers for both the Navy and Marines, hospital corpsmen treat the injuries and illnesses of soldiers in a variety of capacities and locations.

“I was one of only 13 women in the training course,” Anna recounts. “I knew how to type and had the experience of teaching which helped me advance.”

Anna next reported to Treasure Island California Naval Base in San Francisco Bay (closed in 1997), where she served for the next four years. During WWII, Treasure Island was used as a center for receiving, training, and dispatching service personnel serving in the South Pacific.

Anna was assigned to work with a high profile commander of the hospital at Treasure Island. Following the Bataan Death March in April 1942, surviving soldiers of the atrocity were sent to the hospital for immediate care before they were transferred to other bases for rehabilitation and recovery. Anna’s commander insisted on meeting each solider. Anna worked by his side as they collectively greeted each soldier and bared witness to this tragic moment in our nation’s history.

As the war progressed, Anna’s work, and that of the Navy base, remained focused on the fighting in the South Pacific. Unlike modern-day communication platforms, which provide instant access to news across the globe, Anna knew little about the war efforts in Europe.

When the news broke about the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Anna and her fellow soldiers were overwhelmed with pride and happiness.

“We tossed our white caps into the air,” Anna remembers. “Throughout San Francisco everyone was celebrating. We couldn’t believe we did it.”

When WWII ended in September of 1945 Anna was in New York City. She was filled with relief and pure joy to see an end to the devastation. For Anna’s parents, the end of the war meant Anna and five of her six brothers would no longer be in harm’s way.

While her time as a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class came to an end, Anna’s service to our country as a military spouse continued. While at Treasure Island, Anna met and married Joe Barnett, a hospital corpsman from Alabama. Anna and Joe had one son Curtis Barnett, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, a beloved veterinarian who worked in Cumberland County until his death in 2017. Following Joe’s passing, Anna remarried. Her second husband, who also served in the military, has since passed away.

In July, Anna will celebrate her 99th birthday. Last year, during the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna’s community recognized her special day with a parade of cars passing her home. This year, Anna hopes to see her friends and neighbors in person. At nearly 99, Anna greets each day with gratitude and happiness.

“I’m honored I could serve my country,” Anna adds. “My life has been filled with blessings.”

Wreaths Across America 2020

test

 

fort indiantown gap decorated with wreathsFor many years, Homeland Hospice staff and volunteers have participated in Wreaths Across America, a movement to remember and honor fallen Veterans with wreath-laying ceremonies. Homeland has been in attendance and assisted with ceremonies held at Fort Indiantown Gap and at the Dauphin County Cemetery.

Like most of this year’s events and activities, Wreaths Across America at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville will have a different look. Despite the amended event, the ceremony will accomplish the same goal as in years past: to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach our children the value and price of freedom.

On Saturday, December 19, instead of a live ceremony there will be a recorded event shared with media stations and available to watch on the Fort Indiantown Gap and Wreaths Across America Indiantown Gap Facebook pages.

Due to crowd-size restrictions, wreath placement will also look a lot different. Wreath placement will not be open to the general public but will instead be completed by Wreath Distribution Security Teams and Sponsorship Groups during specific time slots throughout the day.

wreaths prepared to honor veteransIn stark contrast to the Fort Indiantown Gap ceremony involving crowds, dignitaries, beautifully landscaped grounds, rows of white tombstones, and thousands of wreaths, Homeland Hospice also supports a second, more secluded Wreaths Across America ceremony held at the Dauphin County Cemetery. Also known as Potter’s Field, this is an obscure cemetery tucked behind industrial buildings along Gibson Boulevard in Swatara Township.

Homeland Hospice became involved two years ago when Volunteer Coordinator Laurie Murry researched local Wreaths Across America events. “My heart was immediately drawn to this cemetery and the people who have found this as their final resting place,” said Laurie.

The cemetery’s background is not unlike that of Homeland. Originally chartered as the “Home for the Friendless,” Homeland was founded to support the dependents – widows and children – of Civil War soldiers. “Continuing that tradition of recognizing the forgotten just seems like the right thing to do,” said Laurie.

Homeland Hospice has been involved with the ceremony at Dauphin County ceremony for the past two years. Six to eight Hospice staff and volunteers, along with the site coordinator Suzanne Sheaffer meet at noon and share in a small, informal ceremony. Wreaths are decorated to represent each military service branch and hung on the chain link fence surrounding the small field. A wreath is placed at the tombstone of the one identified veteran and other wreaths are placed throughout the field should there be any unidentified veterans.

Many poor, homeless, and unclaimed bodies have been buried at Potter’s Field for generations. “PennLive reported in a story about the cemetery that some could be veterans from as far back as the Civil War. Everyone who has sacrificed for the benefit of our country deserves to be remembered and honored. This is just one way we can do that,” said Laurie.

________________

For information about Homeland Hospice and volunteer opportunities, call (717) 221-7890.

Homeland Honors Veterans Through Flags for Heroes Event

test

rotary club - flags for heroes

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson signed the armistice that ended World War I. The following year, President Wilson led the country in celebrating Armistice Day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in service to our country during the war. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day to honor all veterans serving our country.

This year, Homeland Hospice and Homeland Center paid tribute to veterans through Flags for Heroes, a first-time event led by the Rotary Club of West Shore. Homeland is a nonprofit program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

From November 8-15, 160 American flags will fly along the Harvey Taylor Bridge Bypass, a busy corridor leading into the City of Harrisburg. Representatives from Homeland Hospice, the Rotary Club of West Shore and members of our community celebrated this inaugural event with a special dedication ceremony on Veterans Day.

lines of flags honoring our veterans“We want the flags to send a positive message during these challenging times,” says Rod Hite, president of the Rotary Club of West Shore. “We are overwhelmed by the number of community organizations supporting the event.”

For Rod and his fellow Rotarians, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have shed light on the heroism of front-line workers like doctors, nurses and other caregivers. Through this year’s event, flags could be sponsored in honor of someone who has made a difference during the pandemic as well as a veteran for his/her service to our country.

“Rotary and Homeland share similar values,” Rod adds. “We have great love and respect for our community and country.”

For Homeland Hospice, honoring veterans is part of the organization’s core values. For more than eight years, Homeland has been part of the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Through the We Honor Veterans program, hospice volunteers who served in the military meet with veterans during their end of life journey. Patients are given a special pin, which represents their branch of service, as well as a small flag and certificate. The pinning ceremony ends with a salute, veteran to veteran. In this special moment of time, the patient can experience the proud memory of his/her first salute and the love and respect of an entire country.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of volunteers who can visit patients, Homeland has kept the We Honor Veterans program strong with a smaller contingent of people participating in the pinning ceremony.

“Veterans hold a special place in our hearts and minds,” says Myra Badorf, B.A., Assistant Director of Development at Homeland Hospice. “We’re proud to serve as a sponsor and partner of this outstanding community event.”

For more information about the We Honor Veterans program visit www.WeHonorVeterans.org.

To learn more about Homeland’s work with this program, call Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Remembering Veterans This Memorial Day and Beyond

test

 

The last Monday in May is recognized as Memorial Day, a special time to remember soldiers lost in wars and conflicts. Small towns hold parades and families come together for picnics. As a country, the president or vice president lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

While social distancing from COVID-19 will prevent picnics and parades this year, one thing will remain the same. The American flag will fly on front porches, community centers, and in cemeteries coast to coast reminding us of the bravery of our veterans.

For Homeland Hospice, honoring veterans is part of the organization’s core values. For more than eight years, Homeland has been part of the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Through the We Honor Veterans program, hospice volunteers who served in the military meet with veterans during their end of life journey. Patients are given a special pin, which represents their branch of service, as well as a small flag and certificate. The ceremony ends with a salute, veteran to veteran. In this special moment of time, the patient can experience the proud memory of his/her first salute and the love and respect of an entire country.

“It’s a pleasure to see the glow on the faces of veterans,” says Andy Lank, a volunteer with Homeland Hospice. “I’m proud to be part of this amazing program.”

Andy served in the United States Navy for four years, including one tour in Vietnam. Through his military experience, Andy understands the circumstances many patients faced and enjoys hearing about their military service.

“It can be quite emotional for patients and their families,” Andy adds. “Overall, the experience brings everyone peace.”

John Good, chaplain for Homeland Hospice is part of the program. While not a veteran himself, John holds a special place in his heart for those who have served our country.

“I’m humbled to help our distinguished veterans,” John says. “It’s an honor to help them find comfort after their sacrifice for us all.”

To honor and remember those on Memorial Day, you can join fellow Americans at 3 p.m., in a moment of silence.

For more information about the We Honor Veterans program visit WeHonorVeterans.org.

To learn more about Homeland’s work with this program, call Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Honoring a Hero During the COVID-19 Crisis

test

 

Major Henry “Hank” Heim planned every detail of his funeral. Similar to the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, Hank wanted his final farewell to represent valor, honor and duty with representation from active service members. For Hank, his funeral would be a love-letter to the country he honored and served.

Sadly, Hank died in early April, a few weeks shy of his 99th birthday. His passing during the COVID-19 pandemic has put a temporary hold on his funeral plans.  COVID-19 also prevented his son and daughter-in-law, who have health issues, from being with him during his final days. Fortunately, Hank’s granddaughter visited him daily, offering him comfort and support.

Hank lived at Messiah Village in Mechanicsburg. As his health declined, he received nursing care and support through Homeland Hospice. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

“As I learned more about Hank, I knew we must do something to honor him, ” says Hannah Miller, BSN, RN with Homeland Hospice. “He was an inspiration and true American hero.”

Hannah and her team decided to purchase an American flag to drape over Hank’s body after his passing. Knowing the challenges currently facing small businesses, Hannah contacted Ace Hardware in Lemoyne and described the circumstances. The team at Ace went into action and found a flag. They insisted on donating it after learning about Hank’s remarkable service to our country.

Hank was born into a poor, coal-mining family. At age five the family moved from Trevorton, Pennsylvania to Wiconisco, a small town in Dauphin County. When he wasn’t in school, Hank helped his father in the mines. His adolescent years were fraught with challenges. Coming from the poorest family in town, Hank was often the subject of ridicule at school. His high school classmates voted Hank “least likely to succeed” because of his circumstances.

“These words stayed with my father,” says Tom Heim, Hank’s son. “They didn’t defeat him, rather, they made him more determined to succeed.”

At 17, Hank was working in the mines when he was trapped in a cave-in. His father worked furiously through the shale to save his son. This near-death experience ended Hank’s time in the mines. Soon after, Hank joined the U.S. Air Force.

Hank was stationed Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and neighboring Hickam Air Force Base. Hank witnessed the fall of friends and brothers in arms.

As the U.S. fully engaged in World War II, Hank wanted to do more for his country. He noticed a poster advertising the need for pilots. Hank asked to enter flight school and was told he would never pass the test because he was “just a high school kid” and not a college graduate.

Hank was determined to become a pilot and wouldn’t be deterred. He completed flight school and was the first student in his class to solo a flight. Hank was one of two non-college graduates to successfully pass the course.

“My father was used to being underestimated,” Tom says. “Time and time again, he proved people wrong.”

Hank became a B-17 bomber pilot completing 78 missions in North Africa, Sicily and Germany. At the time, most pilots completed an average of nine flights before they were shot down. When the Korean War broke out, Hank flew the B-29 bomber for 51 missions. His courage was second to none.

Following his time in the military, Hank returned to a quiet life in New Cumberland with his wife and two children. He went on to work as a construction foreman for Bell Telephone for 30 years.

Hank’s assimilation to family life was seamless and very much in line with other soldiers of his generation. He never spoke about his military experience or shared stories of his flights with his children until he was approached to speak at a local high school.

“A friend of mine was a history teacher and asked my dad to speak to his students,” Tom recalls. “My mouth dropped when he began to speak. I couldn’t believe what my father had experienced.”

As Hank began opening up to his children, they learned about the many friends he lost in the military and his near-death experiences as a pilot.

“It’s a surreal moment when you realize your father has shaped American history,” Tom adds. “He is every definition of a hero.”

In his retirement, Hank spoke to countless high school students bringing the realities of war into the classroom. He spoke to the students with warmth and grace, never wanting to frighten them, merely sharing the often unspoken perils of war.

Hank was a member of the Central Pennsylvania World War II Roundtable and was featured in a documentary produced by PCN on World War II veterans. He also shared his story with local news stations and newspapers.

For his valor, courage and service to our country, Hank received the Distinguish Flying Cross, the highest honor bestowed by the Air Force. He is featured in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He also received two Purple Hearts and two Presidential Unit Citations in addition to countless accolades for his heroism.

During Hank’s final days he found comfort in music. While his right foot was paralyzed due to a result illness, he kept perfect time with his left foot to John Phillip Sousa’s military marches.

“I’m so proud of my father,” Tom says. “As a father, husband and American, he was remarkable in every way.”

Godspeed Major Heim.

To learn more about Homeland Hospice, please call (717) 221-7890.

Remembering Fallen Veterans: Homeland Hospice Participates in Wreaths Across America Day

test

Every life has a story. These words are engraved on a simple stone at the entrance of the Dauphin County Cemetery, also known as Potter’s Field. The site serves as the final resting place for more than 800 unclaimed remains. World War II Navy Veteran Frank Bakanus, Jr., from Derry Township, is buried here. He is the only known veteran who has been identified and given a veteran marker on his grave.

On December 12, Frank and all of the unidentified veterans interred at the cemetery were remembered for their service during a wreath-laying ceremony led by Homeland Hospice. Hospice volunteers and staff placed wreaths and flags representing each branch of the military on the fence outlining the cemetery. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

“Everyone buried here was someone’s son or daughter,” says Laurie Murry, volunteer coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “It’s our privilege to honor their memory and sacrifice.”

For the past several years, Homeland Hospice has partnered with Dauphin County for National Wreaths Across America Day held in December. Through the program, wreath-laying ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as more than 1,600 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

The team at Homeland Hospice selected the Dauphin County Cemetery because of its similar mission and history with Homeland. One of the earliest markers at the cemetery is dated July 20, 1870. It began and remains a final resting place for individuals who have nowhere else to go.

“Compared to the larger public ceremonies, our time at the cemetery is somber and meditative,” says Homeland Hospice volunteer Phil Talarico. Phil and his wife Barb have participated in the project for the past several years.

Homeland’s story begins in the winter of 1866, in the aftermath of the Civil War. Battlefield casualties were not the only human losses of that conflict, as soldiers’ wives, widows and parents struggled to provide for dependent family members without the support of dead and disabled husbands and sons. Representatives from nine churches concluded that safe shelter for women and children was needed. The “Society for the Home for the Friendless” was formally chartered in May of 1867.

“My husband was a veteran,” says Lorna Owens, Homeland Hospice volunteer. “This project holds a very special place in my heart. I’m honored to participate.”

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

For Love of Country: Retired Chief Petty Officer and Corpsman John Keeney

test

Retired Chief Petty Officer and Corpsman John Keeney died on August 4, 2019. On July 24, 2019, Homeland Hospice honored John for his remarkable courage and sacrifice for our country. We share this article to honor John’s legacy.

“When I returned from active duty in Vietnam, I was greeted by protesters in San Francisco,” retired Chief Petty Officer and Corpsman John Keeney recalled. “I’ve held on to that hurt until today.”

On July 24, 2019, Homeland Hospice along with the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Harrisburg, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and local retired Chief Petty Officers recognized John with a special pinning ceremony for his remarkable valor and allegiance to our country. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Retired Chief Petty Officer and Corpsman John Keeney and Co.

At the time of the ceremony, John was a resident of Harmony at West Shore in Mechanicsburg. In addition to active and retired military officers, John’s family, residents of Harmony and members of the community gathered to honor him for his selfless acts of courage during some of the darkest hours in our country’s history.

As a Navy corpsman, John provided medical support to sailors and Marines in combat during his tour in the Korean War and two tours in the Vietnam War. As a sign of respect, the Marines address corpsman as “Doc.” A distinguished few are known as “Devil Doc” for their proven valor in battle. John was a Devil Doc.

At the pinning ceremony, Command Chief Christian Jimenez, NOSC Harrisburg, presented John with a Navy anchor pin insignia and named him honorary member of the master chiefs association.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service,” Jimenez said. “You are what we all aspire to become.”

At the close of the ceremony, Chaplain Mark P. Harris, M.A., M.Div., Spiritual Counselor at Homeland Hospice, led military members in a salute to John. Mark also retired from the United States Navy as a corpsman and has a special place in his heart for his fellow “Docs.”

For Love of Country: Retired Chief Petty Officer and Corpsman John Keeney

“John lived the words ‘country first,’” Marks said. “Despite the challenges of combat, he was a humble servant to our nation up until his last day.”

During his tours of duty in Vietnam, John was responsible for completing the necessary paperwork to ensure qualified sailors and Marines received their Purple Heart Medals. He put his comrades first and turned down two Purple Heart Medals because he felt others were more deserving.

Eleven days following the pinning ceremony, John died.

“I spent time with John several days after the ceremony,” Mark adds. “He felt at peace with himself and the world around him. It was an honor to know him.”

Homeland honors all who served through its We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice has been part of the program for seven years.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.