On the third Thursday of the month, Veterans from around our region gather at the Hospice & Community Care Campus for Veterans Coffee. John Wentling, a Hospice & Community Care Veteran Volunteer, is actively involved in the Veteran community and took some time to speak about the coffees and what it means to be a Veteran.  

“Veterans, they are a unique group. Comradery is very important, regardless of branch of service. The reason I like Hospice & Community Care is they really do care about Veterans and really do honor Veterans. Frank Grobusky, Hospice Veterans Coordinator, has really done an amazing job. And when we get together for the Veteran Coffee, there is a lot of information exchanged. We do have a lot of fun and tell a lot of war stories. But there is always some good information that comes out of that. And you feel really good,” shared John. 

Melinda Woodhurst, a retired Army colonel, serves York County as the Veteran Services officer. She attends the coffees and always has knowledge or information to share. “Melinda does a tremendous job. The Veterans Services officer before her did a great job, but Melinda has exceeded everyone’s expectations as a Veteran Services officer. Her heart is really into Veterans, and my heart is really into Veterans.”

According to John, each month, the coffee group has been getting larger and larger. “When we started there were maybe a dozen individuals, and now I have counted as many as 35 members. There are a lot of leaders from different groups, there are commanders from the American Legion, the VFW. The Commandant for the Marine Corp League. I was involved with Hospice early on but their Veteran program didn’t really take off. Now the Veteran program is flourishing. The Veteran Garden is just a good place to go to reflect on service, on family, friends, and comrades you were with 50 years ago. Some of us still stay in touch. You have friendships and a bond that is just different from civilian life.”

John, an Army Veteran, has truly dedicated his life to the Marine Corps. In 2015, John was surprised by a ceremony at the American Legion Post #34 that ended with him becoming one of a very select group of individuals. The Honorary Marine title is designed to reinforce the special bond between the American people and the Corps by recognizing individuals in the civilian community who have made extraordinary contributions to the Marine Corps (Department of the Navy, 2018).  Less than 125 individuals have received this honor. The honor can only be done by orders of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, after recommendations from politicians and family and Marines and others. The Medal of Honor recipient that sponsored John for “Honorary Marine” was retired Marine Corps Major General James E. Livingston.

John was incredibly moved by this honor. “I have three brothers who have served in the military, two Navy and one was Air Force. And my own children, three out of four of my sons have served. One in the Air Force, and two in the Marine Corps. Two are retired Marines now, a Marine Corp Officer and a Marine Corps Master Sargent.  nd the Marine Corps Master Sargent, three of his children are Marines, a granddaughter, and two grandsons. I have been the Chaplain for the Marine Corp League for a number of years. My wife and I volunteer for the USO at the Charlotte Airport for 13 years. We are really a patriotic military family.” 

The Hospice & Community Care Veteran Coffees are open to any Veteran from our community.  The next Veteran Coffee will be held on November 21 on the Hospice & Community Care campus. For more information, call 803-329-1500 or email info@hospicecommunitycare.org.  

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