BALTIMORE — Sitting next to a table filled with patriotic mementos, Linda Henderson explains what each item means when it is given in a Salute to Service ceremony at Gilchrist. Each ceremony honors a veteran who is a patient with the facility.
"One of our veterans presents the 'We Honor Veterans' pin from Gilchrist. It was designed just for us," she said.
"We also have cards that we give them from school children."
The cards, the pins, a handmade blanket, each item is carefully chosen to ensure the veteran being honored feels loved and appreciated.
"Some of our veterans have never been thanked, especially the Vietnam veterans," Henderson said.
For the last five years, Henderson has volunteered at Gilchrist, which provides end-of-life care and services. She is part of Gilchrist's "We Honor Veterans" task force and organizes the Salute to Service ceremonies.
"We try to make it a celebration. We try to make it very uplifting and positive," she said.
"Linda really is a gift to Gilchrist. She has such a huge heart and she’s smart and she’s dedicated and we know we can ask Linda to help us when we are in a bind," said Mary Antonucci, the manager of Volunteer Services at Gilchrist.
Henderson also does home visits to provide respite to hospice caregivers.
"We’ve asked Linda to step into situations where it might be a little frustrating for some volunteers," said Antonucci. "There’s a lot going on, we’re meeting people at their most vulnerable point in their life and there’s a whole lot of emotions. Linda does it with grace and without judgment and she really connects with the people who we serve."
End-of-life care often brings up feelings of sadness, heartache and loss. Henderson said she sees the work she does for the veterans at Gilchrist as a validation and celebration of their life, providing special moments as they come to the end of their lifetime.
"We do because its important to us and all of our veterans are so proud of what they’re doing by doing these salutes," Henderson said. "They enjoy it, they love coming and [its] just the good feeling you have afterwards."
Gilchrist is always looking for volunteers. For more info, click here.