Group Helping Honor War Veterans

Saturday, November 8th 2008, 10:01 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- More than 1,800 veterans die every day in the U.S., according to the Veteran's Administration. But a Tulsa group is working to make sure those in the final stages of life are honored for their service.

Nearly 40% of the country's veterans are 65 years or older.

With Veterans Day coming up on Tuesday, Good Shepherd Hospice wants to make sure those who served are honored before they pass on.

George Lewis turned 85-years-old on Friday. He's a World War II vet and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

"I prayed a lot and I told the good Lord to look out for me," said Lewis.

On Saturday, he got a visit from volunteers with Good Shepherd Hospice, bearing the stars and stripes with a special message.

"We remember your sacrifice, we remember your courage, we are thankful for our freedom," said volunteer Ann Farris.

The program is geared specifically for veterans who are nearing the end of their lives. The volunteers spend time with the veterans, encouraging them to tell their war stories.

"Sometimes some of the war memories are quite traumatic, but terminally ill patients, when they can talk about it and remember the victories and the happy times they had in the military, it often helps them to have a more peaceful death," said Benelle Reeble of Good Shepherd Hospice.

George has no problem talking of his past. One of his favorite stories takes place after his unit had parachuted behind enemy lines and captured members of the German army who tried to talk their way out of captivity.

"And the prisoners would say, 'Me no Nazi, me National Socialist.' And we would say, 'Well get your National Socialist asses to the brig over there with the rest of your buddies,'" said Lewis.

The VA says more than two million World War II veterans are still alive, but nearly all of them are more than 80-years-old.

Family members say visits like this mean the world to the veterans, while George says it's nice to hold Old Glory.

"We all love our flags, so I love this flag it's very dear to me and, in fact, that I'm still here to enjoy it I thank the good Lord," said Lewis.

Organizers with Good Shepherd Hospice say this program is the only one of its kind in Oklahoma that focuses solely on working with veterans.