November 11, 2019
Honoring Our Veterans: Volunteer Virgil Ebrecht
Virgil Ebrecht has the gift of gab. He uses his superpowers for good, though, as a Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer for EveryStep Hospice in the Mount Ayr area.
The 50-year-old Army veteran spends a few afternoons a week visiting with patients and their families in Lenox, Mount Ayr, and Creston.
"I was interested in giving time back, to help people," Ebrecht said, noting that he first learned of EveryStep Hospice after joining the local American Legion. "It's about caring and sharing, to help a little everyday."
As a Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer, Ebrecht spends much of his time bonding and sharing experiences with fellow veterans in hospice care.
"I like to socialize," he says of his visits. "It's a brotherhood of service. If you've served, if you've been a part of that family, then you know."
Ebrecht's visits are about creating a bond with patients. They speak about their service, about what they did, and then go from there, he says.
"Every patient makes me want to come back," he says. "Whether you visit them once or more, you figure what is important to them and you both open up."
Ebrecht recalls visiting a patient, a World War II veteran, twice a week in Lenox. The two created a special bond, and when Ebrecht went on vacation to New Orleans, he found a hat featuring a Sherman Tank – the same kind the patient had operated during the war.
Unfortunately, Ebrecht wasn't able to gift the man the hat, as he passed away before Ebrecht returned. The man's family, however, knew of the bond between the veterans, and allowed Ebrecht to place the hat in the man's casket as a token of their friendship.
Another part of Ebrecht’s role as a Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer is participating in special veteran pinning ceremonies hosted by EveryStep Hospice.
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. The ceremonies include the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer of thanks, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the signing of “God Bless America,” a reading of What is a Veteran, and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.
Often, just being present for patients and their families is what they value most. Ebrecht shares a memory from Greater Regional Hospice Home in Creston, where the patient he planned to see had just received his medication and wasn't up for a visit. Instead, Ebrecht spent time with the man's wife, chatting and providing a listening ear.
"It's just about being there and sharing," he says. "Everyone deserves visiting time and to share their experience in life."
Ebrecht is happy to provide that care and time to EveryStep Hospice patients.
"Take the opportunity once to volunteer," he says. "It's a great way to give back."