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SSM Hospice honors local veteran

Mt. Vernon Register-News - 3/3/2017

March 02--MT. VERNON -- U.S. Air Force Veteran Tex Halfacre was honored for his military service during a special ceremony today at Nature Trail Health Care Center.

Halfacre, a Nature Trail resident and hospice patient, received an American flag pin and a certificate of appreciation from SSM Health at Home Hospice.

Surrounded by family and friends, Halfacre was visibly moved by the experience.

"I'm surprised," Halfacre said. "It's a wonderful thing they've done, which I wouldn't expect."

Halfacre, 66, served in the Air Force for four years in the early 1970s, attaining the rank of E-3 Airman First Class. He spent much of his time in the service deployed in Alaska and working in communications.

"I don't know what I'd do without the service because I had no money in order to take care of medical problems I had," Halfacre said, later adding, "I couldn't afford a lot of stuff like medicines."

Vietnam Veteran Bill Hemker, a hospice volunteer and member of the VFW Post #9233, pinned the flag pin to Halfacre's collar and the two men exchanged a heartfelt hand salute.

To Hemker, recognizing veterans like this is of the utmost importance.

"Some of us served in hostile areas, a lot of us didn't, okay, and to me it doesn't make any difference where you served. You served," Hemker said. "I've been involved in a number of these pinnings and if they're at a point where they can still know what's going on, they really appreciate it. Families really do. It really means an awful lot to the families."

Louis Halfacre, Tex's younger brother, said the pinning ceremony made Tex's day much brighter.

"It means a lot," Louis said. "Before everybody came, (Tex) was feeling down and this just brought him back."

SSM Health at Home Hospice covers nine counties and periodically holds pinning ceremonies recognizing hospice patients who are veterans. Every patient admitted to hospice is asked if they are a veteran and if they would like to participate in such a ceremony, said Ruth Heinzmann, volunteer coordinator at SSM Hospice.

"So it's offered to every patient that we have that's a veteran," Heinzmann said. "Not every family wants that, especially if the patient's really not doing well or they think the chaos would be too much."

The certificate presented to Tex Halfacre pays tribute to his service and for the "advancing of the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all of us."

Heinzmann said Halfacre swore to uphold the Constitution and defend the U.S. against enemies foreign and domestic, and that his service should not be taken lightly.

"You pretty much gave the government a blank check of your life," Heinzmann said to Halfacre. "We just want you to know that we appreciate that sacrifice, we appreciate that commitment, and we appreciate what you've done to serve our country."

A special guest at Halfacre's ceremony today was Ben Hamilton, who was struck by a drunk driver in 1995 and requires round-the-clock care. Halfacre was a personal caregiver for Hamilton.

"Tex worked with our family for five years until failing health," said Regina Hamilton, Ben's mother.

Heinzmann said the pinning ceremonies help veterans realize the value of their service and can also be an occasion to bring families together. Halfacre clearly has a strong support system, Heinzmann said.

"Not only do we want to take time to honor their service, but also I've seen the benefits of bringing in extra family members that maybe live a little bit farther away or maybe are not able to visit as much," Heinzmann said.

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(c)2017 the Mt. Vernon Register-News (Mount Vernon, Ill.)

Visit the Mt. Vernon Register-News (Mount Vernon, Ill.) at register-news.com

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