The Power of Honor
Saluting service and celebrating life
Retired Capt. Epstein is a WWII veteran who served in Normandy, France and was among the liberators of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He is also an inspiring hospice patient who was recently honored by the MJHS Hospice community for his incredible service to this country.
“When the captain speaks about his military service, you can feel him traveling back in time,” said Toby, the director of the We Honor Veterans program at MJHS. As a member of America’s first, oldest and longest-serving field army, Capt. Epstein spent time stationed in France, Brussels and Germany.
Capt. Epstein recalls witnessing dead bodies stacked in such high piles that they looked like wood from a distance when he and his fellow soldiers reached Buchenwald Concentration Camp. “I’ll never forget the horrific sights and sickening odors,” Capt. Epstein remembers.
“When caring for veterans, especially those who’ve served in combat positions, each member of the MJHS Hospice team uses respectful inquiry, compassionate listening, and grateful acknowledgment to learn more about the person behind the uniform,” said Toby. These are some of the reasons why MJHS is a top-level partner of We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization that is in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Oftentimes, the captain and his MJHS Hospice social worker spoke about the symbolic meanings of duty, honor, and country. Capt. Epstein was drafted by the Army in 1943, a year after he graduated from Brooklyn Law School. He took his family to Brussels, Paris, and Normandy later in life. While there, they paid respects to fallen heroes of different nationalities and backgrounds. During a recent chat, the social worker asked if MJHS could host a celebration in honor of Capt. Epstein’s service. Mrs. Epstein, who had been listening nearby, smiled when her husband said yes.
The pinning ceremony organized embodied what hospice is all about: celebrating life. At 99-years-old, Capt. Epstein spoke about the joy of living to meet his first great-grandchild. Capt. Epstein also described the honor of service and the devastating impact of war. A retired Army major, accompanied by JROTC cadets, explained the numerous medals and honors that Capt. Epstein had earned. The ceremony shifted to a more intimate conversation between the veterans, who were separated by age but united by their shared service and experiences. That’s so much of what the We Honor Veterans program at MJHS Hospice does. It recognizes and gives voice to heroes who deserve specialized care and recognition.
“We know how critical it is to understand the unique experiences and needs of every veteran,” explained Toby. “While some individuals served during a time of peace, others were on the frontlines. No matter where, when, or how long a patient is served, every veteran is treated with the same respect at MJHS. It’s our duty—and our privilege—to honor them.”
Addendum: Sadly, Capt. Epstein died before this was published, however, he did live to meet his first great-grandson. We are so grateful to the captain for his service. The honor is ours.
Learn more about how we meet veteran’s needs at the end of life and how you can support this mission.