Regina's Blog

Final Roll Call

by Regina Clark - on Tuesday, July 02, 2019
Final Roll Call

 

My 91-year-old dad died a few weeks ago in a VA Nursing Home in Montrose, NY. He was there for four months and hated every minute of it. He just wanted to die. The end was tough for him, he had no dementia at all but couldn’t take care of himself. His hearing was awful, his eyesight was mediocre, and after 75 years of smoking, it was hard for him to breathe and he was always cold. I cried every time I visited. My last visit with him was tough, I knew he was near the end and I just wanted him to be at peace. I begged the doctor to give him whatever he needed to give him to make him comfortable. An hour after he received a sedative, Fr. Lenny came to visit and blessed my dad. Fr. Lenny told me that he had given my dad last rights a few weeks earlier and that my dad was ready to go. I knew he was ready to go, he told me a year ago that he was ready to go. It’s really amazing watching someone die. Some people go quickly and others linger.

The staff at the VA nursing home was extraordinary. They never backed down when my dad yelled at them or ignored his needs. They just did their job with caring and compassion.

My dad was always proud of his military service. He spent six years in the USAF as a navigator after graduating from college in 1950. Like so many other veterans, he told stories. Lots and lots of stories and wore a USAF Veteran baseball hat often.

A few days after dad passed, I visited the nursing home to pick up a few of dad’s belongings. When I arrived, the head nurse asked me if I was planning to stay for the final roll call. I did not know what she was talking about. She shared with me that when a veteran’s body is moved to the morgue, other veterans line the corridor and salute. Then an American flag is placed on their bed for 48 hours to show respect. In addition, there is a final roll call.

The roll call started with a prayer. There was a variety of veterans with different backgrounds lined up in the hallway. Some veterans were in wheelchairs and some held flags. A nurse called a few names and the men responded, here. Then the nurse called my dad’s name and rank three times. Each time she said his name, there was a silent pause which seemed to last forever. Finally, a veteran pressed the button on a boom box and Amazing Grace played followed by Taps and then the sound of gunfire.

I have never witnessed such respect in my entire life and I don’t know if I will ever again.

God Bless America and God Bless all of our veterans, both living and deceased.

 


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