Veterans
February 5, 2024

Honoring a Hero: How VITAS Went the Extra Mile for a Veteran Patient

Michael Badeaux, a Vietnam veteran, receives a bedside salute in hospice.

VFW and American Legion servicemembers salute VITAS patient Michael Badeaux, an Army veteran, at his bedside.

Vietnam veteran Michael Badeaux was among Dr. Angelica Torres’s first patients when she joined VITAS in 2021. Over the next two years, she became his regular physician, his speed-dial contact, and his friend.

She felt firsthand the impression he made on everyone who cared for him. As he approached the end of his life, she felt moved to ensure he received special recognition for his service.

“As the most clinically complicated patient case on my team, it is difficult to summarize two-plus years of laughs, tears, and silences,” Angelica said. “I really appreciated him, not only because he was such a brave veteran but because he had a very sweet heart full of love.”

VITAS always recognizes patients who have served in the United States Armed Forces. One impactful way we ensure they feel this appreciation is the bedside salute. Traditionally, one bedside salute is carried out as a veteran patient is reaching the end of their journey through life. However, because of the extended time he had spent in hospice care, Badeaux received a second bedside salute coordinated by Angelica and other members of his care team.

As a private first class in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971 and a Vietnam War combat veteran, Michael’s courage in adversity extended beyond his military service, said Nancy Auster, VITAS community liaison for veteran affairs.

“Michael has been through a whole lot with his disease over the past two years, but he still has found ways to touch our hearts throughout the journey,” Nancy said. “It is because of his kindness, despite a situation that calls for tremendous bravery, that we mutually decided he should be saluted a second time.”

The VITAS bedside salute ceremony lasts about seven minutes, during which a curated set of items—a blanket, an appreciation certificate, service recognition pins, and a thank-you card—is presented to the veteran.

Angelica and other members of Michael’s care team attended the ceremony alongside former servicemembers from the local American Legion post and a contingent of Veterans of Foreign Wars members. Chief among these was Jesus Gutierrez, a fellow Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who shared a special moment of recognition with Michael during the salute.

Michael Badeaux’s bedside salute stands as a testament to the profound impact of VITAS patients on the people who care for them—and our care providers’ responsibility to ensure every patient’s life is understood and honored before the end.

“Mr. Badeaux was very appreciated and loved by our team,” Angelica wrote in an email after the ceremony.

For our patients whose service to our country is nothing short of extraordinary, our commitment to recognizing their sacrifices goes beyond the ordinary; it is a steadfast promise to care for veterans with unwavering respect and gratitude.