​World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Corporal Robert “Denny” Mooney, Sr. was recently honored for his distinguished service to the country. Approximately 20 family members gathered with Mr. Mooney on the front porch at his home in Pepper Pike for a virtual veterans recognition ceremony planned by Hospice of the Western Reserve (HWR). Volunteer Don Stark, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam as a Lance Corporal, presided over the ceremony via remote technology. Members of the hospice care team also participated.

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Drive by for Mr. Mooney.jpgFollowing the reading of patriotic reflections, the “Call to Colors” was played. Lance Corporal Stark stood at attention as he saluted Corporal Mooney and thanked him for his service. Hospice of the Western Reserve also presented the veteran and his family with a special commemorative pin and certificate. Following the ceremony, Mr. Mooney remarked to his family, “I think I am the luckiest guy in the world.”
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Mr. Mooney enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1944 at age 19. Because he was so young, his mother had to sign the enlistment papers. He was assigned to the 9th Infantry division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, a pivotal battle in achieving the Allied forces’ victory. The last major German offensive on the Western Front during World War II, the battle was an unsuccessful attempt to push the Allies back from German home territory. Corporal Mooney was wounded in action during the intense six-week battle, receiving shrapnel in his leg and developing “trench foot” from severe frostbite.  
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As a civilian, among the most meaningful experiences in Mr. Mooney’s life were two trips he took to Washington, DC, to see the World War II memorial, the first time with his daughter, and the second time as a passenger on an Honor Flight. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices by flying them to Washington DC for a private, escorted tour. Top priority is given to senior veterans – World War II survivors like Corporal Mooney. Veterans on the flight are escorted by other veterans on a day-long tour of all the war memorials, a luncheon and a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. While Mr. Mooney was there, he was also able to visit with his grandson who still lives in Washington DC. He also speaks fondly about a reunion of his infantry division in St. Louis where he was able to see many of the men with whom he had served.
 
Lance Corporal Stark is one of 68 volunteer veterans who participate in Hospice of the Western Reserve’s Peaceful & Proud initiative. The program provides specialized end-of-life care, veteran-to-veteran companionship and recognition ceremonies to honor veterans for their military service. Mr. Stark  has been a veteran-to-veteran volunteer for nine years. He comes from a strong family military tradition, so honoring other veterans is very meaningful for him. Both his father and brother also served in the Marines.