Archives: Veterans


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


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


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.

From Caregivers to Friends: The Big Four


Friends are like four-leaf clovers: Hard to find, but lucky to have

It started with a song and ended with a tribe of four. “The Big Four,” as they like to be called, met when Pat Taksen’s husband, Arne, received Homeland Hospice care from 2016 to 2018. An Army veteran, Arne died on September 11, 2018, a day of remembrance in our country, which coincided with the start of the Jewish New Year. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Pat’s Homeland team of support included Amy Zegers, RN case manager; Laurie Bassler, social worker; and Angelo Evans, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). During their time together, the group formed a remarkable bond while loving and caring for Arne.

“The first time we met, Arne serenaded me with the song ‘Once in Love With Amy,’” Amy says. “I knew I was meeting someone special.”

Arne, a lover of conversation, made the most of his time with his Homeland team. Pat often taught them Yiddish so Arne could quiz the team on what they had learned. He enjoyed sharing highlights from his five-decade career as the owner of D&L Distributing Co., a coin operated amusement business in Harrisburg. In retirement, Arne started NJG (Nice Jewish Guy), a successful driving service.

“Arne could make any story into an adventure,” Amy adds. “He never missed an opportunity to share his life experiences with us and bring a smile to our faces.”

During Arne’s 21 months of hospice care, he battled cancer and dementia. As the dementia progressed, Arne wasn’t able to cognitively understand the toll cancer was taking on his body. The Homeland team worked closely with his family to identify changes in his physical behavior. Together they helped Arne pinpoint the source of his symptoms. He often used drawings to communicate his pain and discomfort.

“The Homeland team welcomed me with open arms,” Pat says. “We became as close as family in the way we cared for Arne and for each other.”

Through Arne’s end-of-life journey, he left a legacy in the people he brought together to care for him. Following his death, The Big Four continues to meet for dinner, which include sharing memories of Arne. Most recently, they gathered to honor the one-year anniversary of Arne’s death and the unveiling of his tombstone.

“Some people come into our lives for a reason and some for a season,” Amy says. “I’m so blessed Arne and Pat Taksen came into my life.”

Homeland provides a full continuum of services to care for patients, and to support families, as their needs change.

Homeland Hospice teams are comprised of a registered nurse case manager, hospice medical director, attending physician, volunteer coordinator, social workers, counselors, home health aides and others. All team members are patient- and family-focused.

For more information, call Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.