When Jay Via started honoring Veterans as part of the American Pride program, he knew it was a calling. “The reason I am a Veteran is partly because I respect Veterans so much. I have always been a big history buff, and I always admired Veterans. They inspired me to my military service.”
Jay served with the Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 and with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2011-2012. He got involved with Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County’s American Pride program to honor Veterans after hearing about it during a presentation where he works. For the past three years Jay has been visiting Veterans who are facing life-limiting illnesses to honor them for their service and share time talking with them.
“What is fascinating about the pinnings is when we are talking with the Veteran after the ceremony they often share stories their families have never heard before,” Jay says. “Families are often dumbfounded, hearing stories for the first time. The pinning ceremony seems to be a great opportunity for Veterans to open up. Families become very emotional learning things they never knew before.”
For Jay, some experiences are especially moving. “We visited a patient who was unresponsive. During the ceremony, we stand at attention by the bed and call the name and rank of the Veteran and say, ‘We are here to honor you.’ Although this Veteran was unresponsive, you could see on the monitor that his heart rate increased and he visibly straightened in the bed, like he was holding himself at attention. He remained that way until the end of the ceremony. I felt he was aware, was able to tell what was going on. He died the next morning. I will always remember him.”
While most of the Veterans Jay interacts with are older and from other conflicts, he finds they share much in common. “It’s uncanny the kind of brotherhood you feel, even if we are from different generations and different wars. We all experienced the exhausting marches, sleeping in the snow, regardless of which war or which generation.”
Jay is disappointed he is unable to attend all the pinning ceremonies. It’s a challenge with fulltime job responsibilities. He hopes to get more involved once he retires and hopes to encourage more Veterans of his generation to participate. “I’ve developed a real camaraderie and closeness with the Veteran partner I do pinnings with, and there is a bond in the brotherhood of Veterans in which I take great pride.”
For more information about the American Pride program and how it honors and celebrates Veterans, please click here.