Ceremony in Mount Ayr Honors Vietnam Veteran James "Smokey" Butler

Pictured above: During an honorary ceremony hosted by EveryStep Hospice, Veterans from multiple eras gather to honor Army veteran James “Smokey” Butler (front row, at right), who served in combat duty during the Vietnam War. Front row (L-R): Jake Dailey, EveryStep Hospice volunteer and 100-year-old WWII Navy combat duty; and James “Smokey” Butler. Back row (L-R): Dennis Abel, Vietnam Army combat duty; Michael Schaefer, Air National Guard Vietnam era.

Army veteran James “Smokey” Butler of Creston was honored May 3, 2022, with a veteran “pinning” ceremony arranged by the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Ayr. The ceremony was held at Clearview Nursing Home in Mount Ayr.

James grew up in Benton, Iowa and went to high school in Mount Ayr, where his math teacher gave him the nickname “Smokey” — a nickname that has stuck with him throughout his life.

In April 1969, Smokey was inducted into the Army at Fort Des Moines. “I was sent to basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana in September of 69,” remembers Smokey. “After basic, I was sent to Camp Eagle in Phu Bai Combat Base in South Vietnam, where I worked in the Transportation department hauling supplies to the 101st Airborne.”

After discharge from the Army, Smokey worked at Longfellow Drilling in Clearfield, Iowa for 34 years and his three children graduated from Diagonal School.

Smokey and his wife, Rhonda, met in high school, but were married much later in life after each had been divorced. They currently live in Creston, where Smokey is receiving care from EveryStep Hospice’s Mount Ayr team at his home.

“I felt very honored and appreciated at the pinning ceremony,” says Smokey. “It was very emotional for me and my family. Vietnam vets didn’t get a lot of that when we came home.”

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.