American Legion members salute dying veteran

Contributed photo American Legion members Jim Kline, Tom Quinlan and Hector Torres visited a World War II veteran on behalf of Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

Contributed photo
American Legion members Jim Kline, Tom Quinlan and Hector Torres visited a World War II veteran on behalf of Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties was looking for a few veterans to render a final salute to patients who had served in the military.

In her search for volunteers, the marketing director called Cornwall’s Town Hall and was referred to Jim Kline, a former Marine and an active member of American Legion Post 353.

It wasn’t a tough sale. Mr. Kline accepted the assignment and got two other veterans, Tom Quinlan and Hector Torres, to join him. They made their first visit at the end of August to a home in Slate Hill.

Parking wasn’t easy. The patient’s family had arrived ahead of time to witness the brief ceremony. With no room in the driveway, the hospice representatives left their car on the side of a road and went inside. They had gifts for the patient who had served in World War II.

They brought a blanket that a senior citizens group had crocheted using the colors of the American Flag. There was a thank you note from a child, a patriotic pin, and a certificate that included the patient’s name and his years in the military. “We pay special tribute to you,” the certificate said, “for your military service and for advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all.”

The visitors presented the gifts and spoke briefly to the patient who was lying in bed. They saluted and left the room, unsure if their message had been heard or understood.

But it wasn’t a wasted effort. As the volunteers came out, the patient’s daughter hugged each one and thanked them for taking the time to be there. “His service had been forgotten,” she said, “and now it’s finally being acknowledged.”

Jim Kline wasn’t sure how he’d react in front of a terminally ill veteran. “I thought it was going to be emotional,” he said. “But it’s kind of an honor that they asked us to do it.”

The three volunteers were replacing West Point cadets who had delivered the tribute gifts in the past. The cadets, served willingly, but with tight schedules they weren’t often available.

Mr. Kline is preparing a PowerPoint presentation for other veterans groups in the hope of recruiting new volunteers.

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Ken Cashman