DANBURY, Conn. -- As two top-ranking Veterans Affairs officials toured the Regional Hospice and Home Care Center in Danbury recently, a dying patient struggled to offer a salute as he received the honor of an Armed Forces Challenge Medallion.
State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean M. Connolly visited two veterans who are spending their final days at The Center along with Danbury City Councilman Thomas Saadi, general counsel and legislative director for the department.
Connolly individually honored each veteran in their rooms with a gift and a formal salute as he said good-bye.
“Both patients seemed minimally responsive before the commissioner entered the room. However, they both readily acknowledged his presence, and one of the men actually lifted his arm to return the salute,” said Ed Schwartz, the Center’s social worker.
Later that night, the World War II hero passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones.
“It was deeply moving to see the response from our patients when Commissioner Sean Connolly gave them a final salute. Even though they could barely open their eyes minutes earlier, they were valiantly attempting to honor him by returning the gesture that had been paramount during their years of service,” said President & CEO Cynthia Emiry Roy.
“It is our privilege to care for the men and women who have served our country. Regional Hospice became an accredited We Honor Veterans Partner to support the dignity of all veterans during end-of-life care.” Roy said.
Connelly, a lieutenant colonel in the U. S. Army Reserves, served in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a prosecutor and brigade legal adviser with the 101st Airborne Division. Saadi is also a veteran.
Veterans' families welcomed them into their private suites where Connolly and Saadi spent time with the patients, thanking them for their service and honoring each man with an American flag and a coveted Military Challenge Medallion.
During war time, this medallion or coin, has been known to save American GIs from execution by allied soldiers when other army identification was shed along with uniforms during escape. It is also an emblem of camaraderie— failure to produce one in the company of other recipients means responding with pushups or supplying a round of drinks.
"For the family of our veteran who died hours after attempting to salute, the timing could not have been more auspicious or more meaningful," the Center said in a press release.
For more information, see The Center's website.
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