After two military deployments to Iraq and a ministerial job at the Kansas Soldiers’ Home in Fort Dodge, Jason Sperling is uniquely qualified to understand the physical and emotional needs of U.S. veterans nearing the end of life.
In his new role as chaplain for Mercy Hospice in Independence, Sperling is putting his experience to work to establish a new level of hospice service specifically designed to benefit veterans and their families.
Mercy Hospice has become a national partner of “We Honor Veterans” (WHV), a pioneering campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The objectives of the campaign are to help provide care and support that reflect the important contributions made by men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
“It’s all about getting to know our veterans who become hospice patients and learning their unique histories,” Sperling said. “Knowing what they experienced during their military service will give us insight into their physical health needs as well as their needs for emotional support.”
According to WHV, more than 25 percent of the 2.4 million people who die every year in the United States are military veterans. As time passes, the nation is seeing many of the veterans who served in World War II and Korea pass away, and the number of deaths among Vietnam veterans is beginning to rise.
Sperling explained, as a WHV partner, Mercy Hospice will implement ongoing veteran-centered education for its staff and volunteers to help improve and tailor the care provided. Through WHV, Mercy Hospice will have access to a wealth of educational resources for guidance in providing care to veterans experiencing a life-limiting or terminal illness and support to their families.
“In some cases, our veterans have specific needs related to their military service, combat experience or other traumatic life events, and WHV will provide tools to help us help these patients,” Sperling said.
In addition to clinical and spiritual care to be offered through the WHV program, an important component of the program is celebration of the veteran’s service, Sperling explained. WHV has outlined a “pinning ceremony” that can be offered to honor veteran patients, as well as their spouses and loved ones, for their sacrifice.
“In some respects, I believe the spouses sometimes sacrifice as much or more than the veterans,” Sperling said. “That’s how I felt about my wife when I was deployed.”
Sperling joined Mercy Hospice in January, relocating to Independence from Dodge City. He served with the U.S. Army Reserves in two separate deployments as a squad leader in Iraq, 2004-2005 and 2007-2008. He currently serves as a chaplain in the Kansas Army National Guard.
He completed his undergraduate studies in Youth Ministry at Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, and earned a Master’s degree in Christian Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Counseling from Calvary Theological Seminary. He also completed graduate studies in Chaplaincy at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, and attended the United States Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
He was ordained at Grace Community Church in Dodge City in 2012. Also in Dodge City, he served as chaplain at the Kansas Soldiers’ Home and with Gideons International. His previous ministry experience also includes service as a youth pastor.
He and his wife, Kim, reside in Independence and have three children: Kerenna, 5; Micaiah, 4; and Isaiah, 1.
More information on the WHV program is available at www.wehonorveterans.org; and more information on Mercy Hospice may be obtained by calling 620-332-3215.
“America’s veterans have done everything asked of them in their service to our country,” Sperling said. “Now it is time that we step up, acquire the necessary skills and care for these men and women with the dignity they deserve.”