November 7, 2023
Opportunities to Honor Veterans in Iowa
Veterans Day, a federal holiday observed annually on November 11, is a day set aside to honor all military veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. In Iowa, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data show nearly 194,000 veterans in Iowa, with 147,555 of them having served during wartime. The largest number of veterans served during the Gulf War, followed by Vietnam, Korea and WWII. There are 3,716 WWII veterans living in Iowa.
The U.S. Census Bureau released a report in July 2023 stating that of the nation’s 16.5 million living veterans, 8.1 million (almost 50%) are 65 years or older. And they’re struggling. The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study found that older veterans are in worse health than civilians in the same age group. Among older veterans:
- 57% have at least three or more chronic conditions.
- 31% report fair or poor health.
- 25% have a functional limitation such as trouble with bathing, dressing and walking.
- 22% suffer from feelings of depression.
Jordan Norton is one of many veterans who are committed to EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program, a special service that pairs veterans who are volunteers with EveryStep Hospice patients who have served our country. Jordan says his visits with veteran hospice patients are special to him. “I get a sense of giving back to the older generation and showing them that younger vets still care about them, and that we still see them and honor their service to this country.”
A combat veteran of Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, Norton currently serves in Alpha Company 224 in Mount Pleasant and Keokuk. He says attending EveryStep veteran “pinning” ceremonies is one of the highlights of his volunteer work. 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 and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.
“They have a big smile on their face,” says Norton, who trades stories and military patches with the veteran patients being honored. “They feel like they’re back in uniform and we really connect over what we’ve been through as service members.”
Norton recently attended a pinning ceremony for a WWII veteran. “There are only a few of those guys left and it’s just an honor to me to be there for a living legend of his era — as a fellow veteran, I can’t even imagine what he’s been through.”
EveryStep is recognized as a Level Four Partner through We Honor Veterans. The EveryStep Veteran-to-Veteran program provides training to veteran volunteers who visit with patients wherever they live — in long-term care facilities, hospitals or at home. Norton says he encourages any veteran to be part of the program and be involved in honoring our older generation of veterans. “We need to give back to this community because some feel like the country just forgot about them. We need to remember them and let them know that we, as service members, still care about them and want to be present in their lives.”
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities with EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran program, visit Volunteer (everystep.org) and click on the “Hospice” program. If you or someone you know needs care or support, complete the confidential "Find Care" form at Find Care | EveryStep Care & Support Services. 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.