Updated: September 11, 2019 08:25 AM
Created: September 11, 2019 07:32 AM
GREECE, N.Y. (WHEC) — A local hospital is recognizing military veterans who come in for treatment.
While walking the halls of Unity Hospital, you’ll start to see flags popping up outside of patient's doors. There are a handful on every floor in every department for patients of all different ages and military background.
It is part of a program put together by hospital staff and the Greece VFW post, and it started through the mission of one man.
Dalton Rarick, a former marine who now works as an ICU nurse, first started quietly buying American flags for veterans in end-of-life care. He was hanging the flags on the doors of veterans at Unity as a way to thank them for their service.
When the local VFW post heard about that, they decided to get involved to help honor every veteran who is admitted into the hospital.
Now every morning, the hospital staff sorts through the names of those admitted, noting the veterans and their room number. A member of guest services then hand delivers a flag magnet to put outside of their door along with a letter of recognition.
“They’re more than a room number or a patient in a bed. They’re humans who seek treatment from us for a number of reasons,” explained Nursing Director Jarrod Atkinson.
He added, “you get to know who they are as people in addition to what brought them here. [The flag] is a great conversation piece, you build a great relationship with them.”
Joseph Madonia is one of those patients. He was drafted into the Vietnam War where he served in the Army.
“I was with the 1st Infantry Division. I had a job with signal corps, I was working on a big truck with radios and telephone lines,” Madonia said.
He recalled seeing other soldiers in their late teens, saying, “I’d see them after an operation. Their uniforms would be all muddy.”
While that war may have passed, the memories remain for Madonia and the other veteran patients in the hospital.
“The [VFW] came up with a program in memory of one of our longtime Unity volunteers who was also a veteran,” explained Atkinson.
In the first month of the program, Unity has already handed out nearly 200 flag magnets to veterans.
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