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Hospice Team Brings Comfort and Peace to U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

At age 81, James Capenito discovered he’d been awarded the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal for his service six decades earlier. VNA Care’s hospice team knows it’s an honor and a privilege to care for veterans and set out to recognize his service to the country.

James enlisted in the Marines during the Vietnam Era. At just 17 years old, military service enabled him to have a future out of the reach of an abusive father and mother with an alcohol use disorder.

He remembered having a rough start, “sassing back to the sergeants” and having two court martials in three months. His second court martial officer observed that “sometimes a man just doesn’t have the proper training.” He offered James the chance to work for him in a warehouse and get back on track with his military career.

After four years in the Marines, James returned to Massachusetts and soon met his future wife Jacqueline. They had two daughters, and he committed himself to breaking the cycle of violence that had plagued his youth. His strong faith is a source of guidance and comfort through good times and bad, including the loss of his wife in 2012 after 48 years of marriage.

James turned to VNA Care’s home health care team more than two years ago for expert care and support in managing heart disease and cancer. After pursuing a variety of curative treatments, he chose to transition to hospice care to prioritize the time he had remaining.

“Hospice is making it possible for me to stay at home,” said James.

The hospice team takes a holistic approach to patient care. Gina Grady, RN, is an invaluable resource, helping James manage 23 pills a day and making sure his pain and symptoms are under control. The team goes beyond just physical health issues to address emotional, social, spiritual, and practical concerns to enable terminally ill patients to live as fully as possible and have meaningful time with loved ones. The team also supports family members during this time and after their loss.

VNA Care recognizes the unique needs of veterans and honors those who served as they reach the end of life as part of the We Honor Veterans initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Andrew Tripp, MDiv, PhD, hospice chaplain, said, “There’s an ethical component to the work of making sure our Vietnam Era veterans are given the respect they are due that our country didn’t give them. If the kindness I can offer is just at the end of life, that might be a drop in the bucket. But it’s letting them know there’s another human who recognizes and honors the sacrifices they made.”

James’ youngest daughter and her husband were at his side when Andrew presented James with a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal pin, which he proudly displays on his Marines baseball hat. James said the moment “felt terrific.”

Andrew also had a certificate recognizing James’ achievement issued to the family by the Department of Defense.

While James wasn’t familiar with hospice care before he became a patient, he’s an advocate for the services provided by VNA Care. He wants others to know “how great they are and how much comfort and peace they give you. You call them, and they’ll be right there to help you.”

He added, “They’re all such wonderful people. I love them all.”

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