PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - According to the organization We Honor Veterans, one out of every four dying Americans is a veteran. As veterans age and approach the end of their lives, they often need the kind of understanding that only a fellow veteran has.
Michael Couper is a Vietnam War veteran. On most Wednesdays, you can find him at the Suncoast Hospice Care Center in Pinellas Park. He is a volunteer for the Serving Veterans program. His job is to honor military veterans in their final days.
“It is strange,” said Couper. “Normally I come on a Wednesday and maybe have a good conversation with a vet and by the time I get back on the next Wednesday, he’s passed away. And I’m thinking maybe I was the last person he had a good conversation with. And that makes me feel good.”
Couper doesn’t only offer conversations. He gives each veteran a certificate and pin honoring their service along with special recognition for their caregivers.
“What we see is that the connection that’s made individually with the veterans, talking with the veterans and the veteran’s family, because they do have that similar background,” said Alicia Lawler, volunteer coordinator or Suncoast Hospice. “They have that understanding of what they sacrificed, what they were prepared to sacrifice.”
It is that understanding that brings comfort to patients, their families and volunteers.
“It is satisfying to know that I can bring a little comfort to a veteran or their family for maybe just 10, 15, 20 minutes,” said Couper.