EveryStep Ceremony Honors Veteran Dennis Fritz of Columbus Junction

U.S. Army veteran Dennis Fritz was honored August 15, 2022, with a veteran “pinning” ceremony arranged by the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Pleasant. The ceremony was held at Dennis’ home in Columbus Junction, where he died hours later.

Dennis spent his early years in Cedar Rapids, moving to Walker, Iowa in 1955 when he was in the fifth grade. That same year, his future wife, Jean, moved to Walker from Vinton as a third grader. “We knew each other for 67 years!” says Jean. “We dated through high school and got married February 28, 1966.” Six days later, Dennis left for Vietnam.

Dennis served as a Specialist 4th Class in Company C, 1st Battalion of the 47th Infantry and the 171st Infantry. On November 6, 1966, he was wounded by a grenade and returned home January 6. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Marksman Badge.

Inspired by his military service, Dennis was very involved in the American Legion. Dennis worked for the railroad for 42 years — first with Rock Island, which then became the Chicago-Northwestern, which eventually became the Union Pacific Railroad.

On August 4 of this year, Dennis was in pain and having difficulty breathing due to COVID and emphysema, so he was taken to the hospital. He was released August 10. “That day I called [EveryStep] Hospice,” says Jean. I just knew I needed help because he wasn’t able to walk. I was so very comfortable with his [care team]. They took such good care, bathing him and giving him a shave. They made him more comfortable.”

The pinning ceremony was attended by Dennis’ entire family. “The kids, grandkids and great grandkids were all there. The ceremony was just excellent. Things couldn’t have worked out any better. We were able to have a picture taken with the entire family.” Though Dennis peacefully slept through the ceremony, Jean believes he heard and understood what was happening. “I think after the ceremony, when most everyone had left, he knew that he had had all his goodbyes.” The pinning ceremony was held at 10:30 a.m. and Dennis passed away just after 4:30 p.m.

EveryStep’s veteran pinning ceremonies provide honor, dignity and recognition to veterans at the end of their lives. Family members and friends are often on hand with EveryStep staff and volunteers during the celebratory events, which include the Pledge of Allegiance, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the singing of “God Bless America,” a reading of "What is a Veteran," and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.

EveryStep is a nonprofit health care organization and a Level 4 partner in the nationally recognized We Honor Veterans initiative. Through its hospice program, EveryStep offers several specialized services for veterans. EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran program is a special service pairing veterans who are volunteers with hospice patients who have served our country. A specialized Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer can provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients. Veterans bring a unique skill set to help patients find peace at the end of life.

To learn about volunteering opportunities across the 44 counties and many communities served by EveryStep Hospice, please visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer/get-started. If you or someone you know needs care or support, complete the confidential "Find Care" form at www.everystep.org/find-care. The form sends a message to EveryStep staff who then follow up with a phone call. It's a great way to start a conversation and get answers with no cost or commitment. EveryStep can connect the individual to its own programs and services that may be helpful, as well as services offered by other organizations and providers in the community.