Arkansas Hospice honors local veterans, provides access to benefits
Arkansas Hospice held a patriotic-themed program Wednesday in the Carroll Electric Cooperative Cooperation’s Community Room to honor local veterans and provide resources to bring them “all the way home.”
David Edwards, strategic communications and media manager, said Arkansas Hospice is the state’s largest provider of hospice services. At its core values is a commitment to enhance the quality of life, he said, and Arkansas Hospice is the first hospice organization in the nation to employ a fully accredited veterans claims agent as a veterans services coordinator.
“As we are on the verge of Veterans Day, we thought it was a fitting time to honor our veterans,” Edwards said, “who are here with us, those who have passed before us and those in the future. With one out of four Americans dying in our nation today being a veteran, Arkansas Hospice wants to provide educational and information services regarding benefits for those who have served.”
Edwards introduced the keynote speaker, David “Doc” Kenser. Kenser, the veterans services coordinator for Arkansas Hospice, is a VA accredited claims agent through the General Counsel’s office, an affiliate with the Department of Veteran Affairs and a CVSO with the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs (ADVA).
As a partially disabled veteran himself, Kenser said he is passionate about helping veterans get the benefits they have earned.
“My dad is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and I have two brothers who are also vets,” he said. “My whole world kind of revolves around veterans and what they should and ought to receive.”
He began by discussing the history of Veterans Day. He said the holiday was first celebrated as Armistice Day, commemorating the cessation of fighting between the Allies and Germans in World War I in 1918.
“The war ended in the 11th month at the 11th day at the 11th hour,” Kenser said, “which is why Nov. 11 was chosen as the date for the holiday. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day.”
World War I was thought of as “the war that would bring peace to the whole world,” he said, so Armistice Day was originally celebrated with a pacifist intention that there wouldn’t be any more fighting. Congress made it a legal federal holiday by statute in 1938, he said, and dedicated it at that time to world peace.
“Those dreams were not to be realized. What happened in just a few years was World War II,” Kenser said. “In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to ‘Veterans Day,’ a day to honor American warriors of all wars for their patriotism and their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
He said only 1 percent of Americans actually go to war, and the other 99 percent get to receive the benefit, blessing, security and peace afforded by the sacrifice, lives and blood of men and women in uniformed service.
“That’s the reality I would like us to think about for a moment,” Kenser said. “Veterans do what they do so everyone else has the freedom to do what they want to do.”
He continued, “Our veterans have not only sacrificed by being separated from family but also by missing out on good-paying jobs to get a low-paying job. A private in Iraq makes about $18,300 a year right now.”
Veterans put their lives on the line, he said, voluntarily and knowingly facing death in battle, risking life and limb and shouldering the “soul-shaking burden of taking up arms and killing another human being.”
“I don’t know if you understand what that does to a person,” Kenser said. “Someone who has been taught not to kill all their life is now standing there pulling the trigger and killing somebody, maybe several somebodies. How do you live with that?”
He said veterans have to do things they never thought they would do because they have a job to do and are following orders.
While civilians talk about bringing troops home, Kenser said this often patronizes veterans because it ignores their mission and the cause they have willingly and knowingly accepted.
“It isn’t just about getting home,” he said. “Our soldiers and sailors and airmen want to get the job done so we don’t soon have to go back. When they return, we as a nation need to be sure we’re ready to take care of them and their medical needs, their housing needs and their financial needs.”
Veterans have to get reset into a society they had to step outside of, he said.
“When you step back in, it’s a different world,” Kenser said. “What I, Arkansas Hospice and many other veterans organizations want is for our vets to be able to come all the way home. Not just back to shore and their front door. We want them back home into their families, into their jobs and society as healthy, whole and healed veterans. That’s why we do what we do.”
Arkansas Hospice is at the far end of that goal, he said, because it provides assistance to those whose lives are coming to a close.
“Before veterans have nothing more that can be done, we want to make sure we have done everything we know to do,” he said. “That’s what I would like to see done. That’s our commitment at Arkansas Hospice. We are the only hospice in the state that has a veterans service officer on staff because we have this level of commitment. We want to serve the men and women who have served this country.”
While no amount of medical care, scholarships and benefits can compensate the men and women who have accepted the call to serve in the military, Kenser said it is a start.
“To our veterans, you are heroes because you stood up and you were counted,” he said. “You’re worthy of honor and esteem for what you’ve done for being willing to accept the call of duty. That’s what the other 99 percent depends upon for the freedom that we enjoy.”
After the service, veterans were able to speak with Kenser at a resource table about getting benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration. For more information on Arkansas Hospice, visit ArkansasHospice.org.