Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center
Honors Escort Program
Wilkes-Barre has joined VA medical centers throughout the nation in launching a new program, called Honors Escort. The program offers a ceremonial escort to patients who pass away while at the Medical Center orCommunity Living Center (CLC).
The ceremony allows staff, residents, patients, and visitors to pay their final respects to the Veteran, and reminds family members of the high regard and reverence VA holds for their loved one, even after they
have passed on. The ceremony is conducted by trained volunteer employees, and ensures that Veterans’ service, accomplishments, and sacrifices are not forgotten as they are laid to rest.
The first Honors Escort at Wilkes-Barre took place on June 16, 2016, and more than 25 such ceremonies have taken place since. The ceremony begins with a bedside flag ceremony. Afterward, the Veteran’s gurney is draped with the American flag, and a procession escorts the Veteran to the morgue. As the procession moves through the medical center, all who are standing along the procession route stand aside and quietly offer their respects.
According to Valerie Barna, LCSW, the palliative care coordinator for the medical center, “When you see employees, Veterans, and visitors lining the hall to pay their respect as the procession goes by, it’s very moving.”
Throughout the ceremony, a team member remains with the family of the deceased, providing comfort and support. Once the ceremony is completed, the team member remains with the family to ensure all necessary issues are addressed, and all of their questions or concerns are answered. The team member then escorts the family to their vehicle or vehicles.
Veterans are appreciative of the program. “I have had many CLC residents tell me that the honors escort allows them to have closure. They also feel it provides respect to the Veteran who has passed,” says Hope Danishanko, LSW, a social worker at the CLC.
Concludes Barna, “It couldn’t be done without our employee volunteers. They are touching so many people with their kindness.”