Honoring veterans and active military service members is an important part of Mercy Fort Smith’s mission, said Father Paul Fetsko, Mercy’s vice president of mission.
“The Christian faith is founded on the sacrifice of Jesus,” Fetsko said. “Likewise, our country and the freedoms we enjoy every day are founded on the sacrifice of men and women. It is our joy and privilege to honor our veterans and active military personnel.”
Mercy Fort Smith has developed a program to honor veterans and active duty military members who have served the country. This past Veterans Day, Mercy Fort Smith began recognizing veterans and active military service members who are patients at the hospital by placing magnets outside the patient's doors and offering thank-you cards from Mercy volunteers.
On Feb. 11, Mercy Fort Smith began its new Honor Walk program, where veterans and members of the military are recognized when they die.
Mercy staff will work with family members who want their loved one remembered with an Honor Walk. During the walk, Mercy co-workers will hold parade flags as they line the hallway from the patient’s room to the elevator while observing a moment of silence. The line formation and silence will continue until the patient and family have passed the unit’s exit doors and the doors have closed.
A cover resembling the American flag will be placed over the patient during transport. An embroidered sash with the branches of military service will be displayed on top of the cover, and a prayer will be offered for the patient.
Both the cover and the sash were hand-made by Crystal Hardy, a Mercy senior informatics analyst. Hardy, who was a captain in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, served on active duty from 1986-93 during Desert Storm and was in the U.S. Air Force Reserves until 2004.
“The support of Mercy Fort Smith’s leadership and the collaboration between our nursing, pastoral care, security, transport, volunteers and communication co-workers have made this recognition of our service members possible,” Hardy said. “After hours of research and team meetings, we now have a program to implement here in our area.”
Patients who are veterans or active service members have the option of being recognized while they are at Mercy Fort Smith. If the service member wants to be recognized and honored, then a patriotic door magnet is placed outside the patient’s room. In addition, volunteers at Mercy Fort Smith create hand-made cards for the patients, thanking them for their service. The card will be signed by co-workers and given to the patient at the time of discharge, or to the family at the time of the military service member’s death.
Both programs are optional for patients and their family members.
Mercy Fort Smith leaders learned about a similar program from Mercy’s northwest Arkansas community and saw an opportunity to bring it to Fort Smith. Mercy Springfield also participates in the program.
“As a veteran, and part of the Mercy family, this program has special meaning to me personally in honoring our military service members,” Hardy said.