VITAS Veteran Patient Honored for Military Service and Landmark Birthday
The last time military personnel in dress uniform appeared unannounced before Jacob Wynn, Jr., they told him to report for active duty – for the second time.
This time, they were there to celebrate his 100th birthday and honor his military services at a special event on July 1 at his home in Niceville, Florida. Jacob’s family and staff from VITAS Healthcare and Superior Residences of Niceville organized the event.
A party like no other
Part birthday party and part military honors ceremony, the event also drew active and retired military personnel from the Army, Air Force and Marines, VITAS staff from the Niceville and Pensacola offices, facility residents and Paw Pals® partners Amber Grant and Tess, an Australian shepherd.
Jennifer Garrick, a VITAS nurse who previously served in the military, was responsible for most of the planning of this special ceremony, melding patriotic musical performances with traditional displays to honor Jacob’s service.
“I wanted a ceremony that combined the elements I’d seen in events for others,” Garrick says. “I reached out to people and groups like the [Fort Walton Beach] Community Chorus and enlisted their help.”
Fifteen members of the Fort Walton Beach Community Chorus – several of whom were also veterans – opened Jacob’s ceremony by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and closed it with a classic: “Happy Birthday.” They also sang “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” the Army’s official song, during the ceremony.
Thomas Baez, VITAS chaplain, began the recognition portion of the ceremony with a prayer.
“This is a day we have been planning for months – Jacob Wynn is turning 100,” Thomas says. “Jacob recently told me that he would be spending his next 100 years in heaven.”
Jacob’s first recognition came in the form of a flag-folding ceremony by the Eglin Air Force Base Honor Guard. The flag presented to Jacob had been flown over Eglin in honor of Wynn’s military service. Apparently feeling cheeky, Jacob asked the Honor Guard if they needed him to show them how to fold the flag.
After the flag ceremony, several local veterans spoke about Jacob’s 23-year career in the army, sharing the highlights of his service.
Jacob’s military career, they explained, spanned from 1941 through 1964. Over that period, he served in both World War II and the Korean War, using the engineering skills he acquired during college to build airstrips in the Pacific. Jacob retired as a Lieutenant Colonel on February 13, 1964.
Finally, VITAS representatives saluted Jacob and presented him with a certificate and flag pin in honor of his service and sacrifice. With that last gesture, the ceremony concluded. Eyes were still drying as facility staff began to serve cake and ice cream.
“Not everybody gets to be involved in a 100th birthday celebration,” says Sondra Readett, executive director of Superior Residences. “I was glad to be part of this event, and it was a huge success.”
A home for veterans
VITAS ensures that all veterans receive compassionate and appropriate end-of-life care, wherever they call home – whether at a traditional residence, inpatient hospice unit, assisted living facility or nursing home. Download our 16-page Veterans Resource Guide (PDF) for helpful information about benefits, sources of aid, websites, community groups, VA forms and other resources for veterans and their families.