Volunteer to Ensure No Veteran Dies Alone

It’s a rainy Tuesday afternoon at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center. Social worker Tonya Ross teases 69-year-old army veteran Herb Poynor about his love for Chinese food and apple fritters.

Poynor is battling a bout of pneumonia and says he has 16 percent of his lung capacity left. Ross works as the hospice/palliative care social worker, accompanying veterans like Poynor through the challenging last weeks and days of their lives.

“Whether I live a month or whether I live a year, it’s hard to say it any way you want to look at it,” Poynor tells Ross.

A nationwide program, No Veteran Dies Alone, is new to the Dole VA Medical Center. Ross and her unit are seeking people from the community to bring their talents or their time to veterans receiving their end of life care. The program especially seeks to help veterans who do not have family around to be there for hard decisions like funeral homes and last wishes.

“A lot of times they just want someone to hold their hand. Sometimes, it’s just someone to be there,” Ross said.

Poynor says he has no relatives in the area that visit him. He lost his wife and daughter years ago. He was brought to tears thinking of the care he’s received in the Transitional Living Center (TLC) at the VA.

“I’m honored to be here. Because it does feel like home, and they try to make it feel that way,” Poynor said.

Ross is seeking anyone with talents like massage therapy, aromatherapy, animal therapy, musicians, or anyone willing to push a veteran around the grounds on a wheelchair.

If you’re interested in volunteering your time and talents to provide peace to a veteran in their end of life care, please call 316-685-2221, extension 57820.