SEBRING — On Thursday, three retired veterans, Montie Dowling (Navy), George Wanberg (Marines) and Cheryl McCullough (Navy) presented six fellow veterans residing at The Manor at Lake Jackson with a “Veterans Salute,” sponsored by Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care.

There are 6,000 hospice programs in the United States and 3,000 have some sort of a program for vets. Cornerstone Hospice is one of 300 other U.S. programs accredited with Four Stars through the “We Honor Veterans” initiative, a VA hospice program throughout the United States.

Cornerstone Services offers a plethora of help to improve the quality of life for vets. They enhance their program with “Cornerstone Salutes.”

A retired military man or women volunteers to visit and conduct a salute to a family with a vet, spend time with a group of vets or come to any location to salute the veteran. The ceremony consists of presenting the vets with a certificate, a small American flag and a pin as a way to honor and thank them for their service.

George Wanberg is the Veteran Services Administrator of the program. “We teach our staff and volunteers that vets think differently than non-military folks and at the end of their life they thinks differently as well because of what they went through during their service years.”

At Veteran Salutes events stories are told the veteran had never told even his close family. Wanberg added, “We hear incredible stories.”

Over 60 veterans in the seven-county area volunteer to do the ceremony. A special salute was done April 18 at The Manor in Sebring. The staff decorated a room with Americana tablecloths, American flags and appropriate utensils.

Six vets living at The Manor were invited for a private lunch during which time they each were presented a personalized certificate, flag and lapel pin. Three retired vets than stood at attention and saluted the men.

Navy retired veteran Monti Dowling from Lake Placid, visits, has lunch and shares stories every month with the vets at The Manor, an intimate home that provides residents, (many with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related disorders) dignified and compassionate individualized care. It was his suggestion to honor these six men. The most honored at one time was 115.

The Korean and Vietnam veterans included: John Manor (Army) originally from Pittsburgh; Danny Brakes (Army) from eastern Missouri; Klaus Martin (Army) from Germany; Harry Sigler (Navy) from Columbus, Ohio; Harney Whidden (Navy) a Florida native; and James Shook (a 20-year Air Force vet) from Alabama.

During lunch conversation Wanberg shared military facts that most Americans are unaware of. From 1941-1945 over 16 million men and women wore a US military uniform. Women who were nurses in WW II were automatically commissioned officers. Men who were nurses were enlisted.

The youngest Vietnam veteran who died in service and has his name on the Vietnam Wall was 15 years old. Three were 16 and there are three sets of fathers and sons. Obviously the youngsters loved their country so much they actually lied to get into the service.

Wanberg told the men that we lose six hundred Vietnam vets every month. There are more than 50,000 veterans in this country who die each month. The number accounts for 25% of all deaths in the United States. We must never forget the cost to keep us “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

One beautiful way is through the Cornerstone Salutes our Veterans program. For more information on how you can honor a vet in Highlands, Hardee, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Sumter counties, visit cornerstonehospice.org or call George Wanberg at 352-348-9095 or the Cornerstone office at 352-742-2927.

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