‘Vet-to-Vet Conversation’: Volunteer Bill Palm

Carroll Hospice is proud to care for and recognize military veterans at the end of life.

In honor of Veterans Day, Carroll Hospice’s We Honor Veterans volunteers share their thoughts and experiences.

U.S. Army veteran Bill Palm reflects on his volunteerism:

I have now served as a Carroll Hospice volunteer for 10 years, and in that context I have met a few hundred veterans, primarily through our We Honor Veterans program. For each veteran, we provide a little ceremony, presenting a certificate recognizing their service, accompanied by pins and a flag.

Most significantly, we take some time for vet-to-vet conversation, always personal, occasionally coming to terms with difficult experiences, often enjoying a smile about the foibles of the military, and sometimes drawing family members in discussions of days long past.

Ten years ago, virtually all men in their mid-80s or older had served in the military during World War II. Their stories reflected service for the duration of the conflict, however long it may be. One former soldier, with whom I spoke various times, told of fighting his way through Africa and Sicily and, finally in Italy where he received his wound in his exposed tail end—a literal lesson in keeping one’s butt down.

Another World War II vet walked the beaches of coastal United States looking for evidence of enemy activity. Indeed, most vets did not serve in harm’s way, but they did take an oath, they did put on the uniform, and they were available when needed.

One of the Korean War vets was in communications and told of finding himself, one morning, trapped on an isolated hill surrounded by Chinese forces, managing somehow to exfiltrate in a hurry.

Another Korean War vet served as a driver. He reported being a loser, having been busted in rank a couple of times. We helped him reframe his experience heroically driving his truck in a hazardous, imminently dangerous environment.

And now, we Vietnam War vets are generally in our 70s, and some are under hospice care. We can often discuss shared experiences, as with a sailor who was directing fire of his five-inch guns in support of Marines at the same time as I was directing fire for a 155 mm Army artillery battery down in the Delta. Included are vets with Agent Orange-associated conditions. I joined them in remembering the sight of the yellow cloud spewing from an overflying aircraft and being assured that it must be safe.

Thank you to all veterans for your selfless sacrifice for our country.

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