Ohio veterans in hospice care honored in pinning ceremonies


BELLVILLE, Ohio (AP) — When Harry Welshans Sr. came up to shake John Huml’s hand, the two veterans connected over the badge pinned on Welshans’ shirt.

“I’m proud of that right there, that is my flag,” Huml, 92 and a World War II veteran, said as he pointed to Welshans’ chest. It was a combat infantryman badge given to those who served in combat, said Welshans, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran and member of the Bellville American Legion post.

The two men met at an honor-pinning ceremony hosted for Huml by OhioHealth Hospice at Country Meadows Care Center. Huml was admitted to hospice care at the center a few weeks ago, when he was told his cancer had come back in his bones, said his niece, Sandy Mahek, of Crestline.

Mahek and her husband, Jim, came to see Huml honored for what may be the last time.

“He served his country, giving his life for all of us, and never questioned it,” Mahek said. “I’m glad to be a part of all that.”

Huml was overseas during the war for 25 months, traveling a lot. He doesn’t have a lot of good memories of combat, but he fondly remembers the traveling.

He recalls the beauty of New Zealand and Japan, as well as a visit to New Caledonia.

“New Zealand is a beautiful country. One bad thing about New Zealand was three meals a day were mutton, and oh my,” said Huml, who hates mutton.

When he came back from the war, he got an offer to sign up for six more months and become the highest paid non-commissioned soldier in the Army, he said. He declined and went on to work for Ohio Edison for 47 years.

Robyn May, volunteer coordinator at OhioHealth Hospice in Mansfield, said Huml asked for the ceremony.

“I want him to feel like people appreciate his service, because they make such a big sacrifice,” she said. “If I can have a part in making sure they do get recognized at least one more time, I think that’s important.”

The ceremony is available to any veteran admitted into an OhioHealth hospice. The health system has offered the honorary pin, ceremony and certificate for veterans for about three years.

May does two to three ceremonies a month, during which the honored veteran is pinned by a fellow service member.

The pin, in the shape of Ohio, features the American flag and a veterans flag. May hopes to get some pins made representing the different branches of the military.

The hospice system has done about 30 pinnings a year since the program started, said Marcus Thorpe, an OhioHealth spokesman.

Huml seemed delighted by the ceremony, and the turnout. In addition to his family, five American Legion members and hospice staff members attended.

Wearing a navy blue hat embroidered with “WWII Veteran and Proud of It,” he smiled and surveyed the room.

“It’s a beautiful gesture,” he said. “All these nice people, all standing around honoring the veteran of World War II.”

“They’re keeping him comfortable,” said Mahek, recalling a time when her uncle was riding around in the “love of his life,” a Chrysler 300. “He went wherever he wanted to go, and he could do that just until a couple months ago.”

Mahek choked up a bit as she thought of her uncle’s illness and service.

“It was a draft, and you answer the call because you have to for your country,” she said.

___

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com