Waco: Hospital launches program to honor veteran patients

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Monday's cold, windy weather didn't stop services honoring veterans from taking place all across Central Texas including a unique ceremony outside a Waco hospital.

(Photo by Clint Webb)

Ascension Providence used Veterans Day to kick-off a new program to make patients with military service feel special.

"We're proud to honor those veterans who have served and sacrificed and we want to do it in a more respectful way, but also in a way that recognizes them every time they are on our campus," said Philip Patterson, President of Ascension Providence.

In a special ceremony dedicating it's new Veterans Memorial & Healing Garden, Monday marked the beginning of the "Honor the Red, White, & Blue" Veterans Recognition Program at Providence.

"We will have memorial arm bands that are representations of the American flag that they will wear so no matter where they are within the hospital everybody will recognize them as a veteran," said Patterson. "We also have a magnetic cling that we will put on the door that will also recognize them as a veteran as people pass by their room."

Anyone who comes through the hospital identifying as a veteran will be now recognized from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, even if the reason they're leaving is because they passed away in their care.

"We're giving them a final salute and honor walk, we will line the halls with our employees, we will drape their stretcher with a replica of the American flag, and as they leave the front door of the organization they will play 'Taps' in honor of their sacrifice to our country," said Patterson.

Taps was played outside the hospital Monday afternoon during a well attended dedication ceremony at the new memorial garden.

"Donors have made it possible, human hands have built it, and those who have served our country so honorably will have a wonderful place to be remembered," said LCDR Harrison Roper, U.S. Navy Reserves & Manager of Chaplain Services.

Guests included local dignitaries and politicians.

"We're here to honor, and render honor, to those whom honor is due," said State Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Dist. 22.

Hospital officials said they started talking about creating the garden about a year ago.

"Many organizations and donors have donated time, talent, and money to make the Memorial Garden happen," said Patterson. "It was led by Providence, but it's a community recognition for our veterans."

The garden includes flags from all five branches of the military and their medallions, a commitment statement for the U.S. military etched on a boulder, and a memorial fountain.

"The fountain honors them through life-building water, but also with lights on it that are red, white and blue," said Patterson.

There's also benches with representations honoring the military etched into each one.

"For those individuals who just want to sit and enjoy being outside the hospital," said Patterson.

The hospital will also now have special veterans-only parking spaces.

"They have our back and so we need to remember to have their back," said U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Dist. 22. "I appreciate everything that Ascension Providence has done to recognize our veterans with the unique program that they've rolled out today."