What do serving in the military and volunteering at a hospital have in common? According to Mercy volunteer Gene Schott, who spent two years in Korea during the Korean War, compassion is the key.
The 85-year-old has volunteered at Mercy Hospital St. Louis for nearly eight years and for more than 2,000 hours. “We’re taught to be compassionate and to have compassion for people,” he said. “I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes.”
Gene and his wife Pat serve as a team for the Shepherd’s Watch program -- originally started for those at the end of life with no family or friends and now expanded to any patients who are lonely and don’t have family or friends nearby to visit. Gene and Pat visit patients together and are able to share their experiences, such as surviving cancer, to help others.
“I’m not doing anything special; I’m just showing up. The patients think ‘if this old guy can make it, so can I,’” Gene mused.
After spending so much time helping others, Gene was recently honored with a trip to Washington, D.C., by the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight. Along with his son (as his guardian), Gene was treated to an all-inclusive, whirlwind trip to visit various national monuments.
After arriving bright and early at the airport, “3:30 a.m., oy vey,” Gene recalled, the veterans were welcomed and assessed by the nurse who would also be on the flight.
“We landed in Baltimore to a water cannon salute. They were shooting water over us,” Gene said. According to Honor Flight, the water cannon salute is reserved only for retiring pilots and Honor Flights.
After landing, the 16 World War II and five Korean War veterans on the flight were announced. Gene said people started clapping for them and it recognition continued everywhere they went throughout the day
“I was first in the procession with my son pushing me in a wheelchair,” Gene recalled. “Everyone wanted to shake my hand. You wouldn’t believe how many people appreciated our service. I felt like a king.”
When they returned to St. Louis around 8 p.m. that same day, they were greeted by a welcome committee. Gene’s family was front and center. “About 20 of them were there to greet me and celebrate.”
It was definitely a day Gene will never forget.
Mercy thanks Gene and all the veterans who have served our country through the years.
The Mission of Greater St. Louis Honor Flight is to recognize our veterans with a day of honor, remembrance and celebration. We do this with a one-day, all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to visit the memorials built to honor their service and sacrifice.