"Return to Nam" vets inspire hospice staff

DE PERE, Wis (WBAY) Statistics show one out of every four Americans who pass away each day are veterans.

A local hospice company wants to make sure those vets honored and find peace at the end of life.

So staff members at Heartland Hospice in De Pere are seeking advice from veterans just back from a historic Honor Flight to Vietnam.

"The patients that we work with who are veterans and have served have not talked about their experiences for 40 or 50 years, so our hope is to gain some advice, suggestions on have those conversations with our patients to open up for healing," says Tracy Rosinski, Heartland Hospice Regional Veteran Liaison.

Invited to share their experiences and suggestions are three Vietnam veterans who just spent two weeks on an Old Glory Honor Flight to Vietnam.

The veterans are brothers Dale and Tom Van Lanen from Green Bay and Mike Sheedy from Suamico.

"When you come back from that, it's different. You're kind of a changed guy," says Dale Van Lanen.

To understand these veterans, Heartland staff watch some of our stories from Vietnam.

"This whole thing has opened me up more so because I got my closure when I went back to Vietnam," says Dale.

That recent closure and healing allows the vets to offer simple yet heartfelt advice.

"Just sit down and have the patience to tell them that you really want to listen to what they have to say, and really show them that you're interested in listening to what they got to tell you, their experiences, and that would be great for that veteran," says Tom Van Lanen, Dale's older brother.

At times, the hospice staff are moved to tears listening to the veterans share their path to healing, and they're ready to carry the inspiration with them.

"Opportunity we have at the end of life is a perfect opportunity to allow for that question and explanation and that storytelling, that leaving a legacy, because as another gentleman said, this is their last time to tell their story," says Rosinski.

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