Volunteer Ron DeMeza Honored for Serving Fellow Veterans
Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteer Ron DeMeza has received the 2019 Heroes for Andy Award from The Andy Nowacki Foundation. Ron is a U.S. Army Veteran who served in combat in Vietnam from 1970-1972. Over the past two years, he has dedicated his volunteer service to conducting Veterans Recognition Ceremonies to honor fellow veterans who are hospice patients as part of HWR’s Peaceful and Proud veterans’ program.
The Heroes for Andy Award, now in its 14th year, is presented annually to recognize individuals who exemplify service to others in Northeast Ohio. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew “Ace” W. Nowacki, lost his life in 2005 while protecting a convoy during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The family established The Andy Nowacki Foundation in his memory. Each year, the Foundation honors Heroes for Andy, “individuals who act above and beyond the call of duty, and in so doing, give definition to patriotism and elevate all of us.”
Ron has dedicated his volunteer service to honoring veteran patients during their last days or months of life. Many of these requests are for veterans who are actively dying. Other times, the veterans are bedridden and have lost their capacity to care for themselves. Surprisingly, many have never spoken of their combat or military experiences with their families. Sons and daughters, grandchildren and spouse might be hearing their loved ones’ stories for the first time. It is Ron who creates the presence and provides the respect, the space and the willingness to listen when veterans are acknowledged for their service during the private ceremonies. This role requires a unique courage.
When we offer a patient a Veteran’s Recognition Ceremony, usually a patient is surrounded by his or her family, friends and primary hospice team. Military music is played. Ron leads with an inspirational reading about the meaningful contribution veterans have made. He presents the patient with a veteran’s recognition certificate and commemorative veteran’s pin. Sometimes, he presents a red, white and blue afghan, hand-crocheted by a hospice volunteer. As the moving ceremony ends, the veteran patient and Ron salute each other. Some of these soldiers “come back” from their actively dying state to do this salute. Such a moment fills all of us with dignity, respect, closure and deep emotion.
To be among those who “go above and beyond the call of duty to elevate others” is right where Ron DeMeza belongs, according to the Volunteer Service Managers who are privileged to work with him. We are grateful to Ron for not only his service to the country, but his continued blessing to volunteer to honor service men and women during a tender time of life. Thank you, Ron.