In August, a dying Vietnam veteran was granted his final wish all thanks to the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia. While the mistreatment of veterans and the fraud of the Veterans Affairs department has been all over the news, this one act of kindness does a little bit to help one warrior live in a little more peace.
Soperton native and U.S. Navy veteran Connie Willhite was in the hospice care unit at the VA Medical Center when he uttered his dying wish. There were just two things he wanted. And they were both very simple.
The dying veteran wanted to be baptized and he wanted to catch one more fish…
Without hesitation the Georgia hospital ordered the VA chaplain Sam Scaggs into the room so the man would be protected in the afterlife. Scaggs helped Willhite with his baptism. The soldier wanted to be baptized so he could be prepared for the “crossover” once he died.
During the baptism, his family came out to support him. But the baptism was not his only dying wish. There was still the business about catching that fish to attend to.
So Greg Senters, a hospice care worker who had built a relationship with the dying Willhite, started to put the fishing trip plans into motion. Senters went out and brought the bait and gear in order to make Willhite’s wish a reality.
That’s when Senters along with Willhite’s nursing staff took the Vietnam veteran to Lake Leisure which is a small pond located behind the VA Medical Center campus.
“It’s called fishing, it’s not called catching. So I told him we may not catch anything, but he said it doesn’t matter,” Senters said. “He said just being out there doing this was just as good.”
But when a fish bit on the line, Willhite’s face lighted up. He was ecstatic that his dying wish was coming true.
“All of a sudden, the cancer and everything else went away, and what you see is that precious few moments of someone really enjoying life,” Senters said.
Senters decided to work in hospice care because he says it’s about living, not death. And he says that the people who are dying can teach the living a lot about life.
Willhite’s cousin Lisa Kittrill said the veteran was always a joy to have in the family and that they owe so much to him.
“He talked and talked when I came in that day, and said he went fishing and got baptized, and for that I’m so glad,” Kittrill said.
Kittrill visited her cousin every day in hospice and said she is grateful to the Dublin VA for their amazing care.
The veteran died peacefully on August 29.
Credits: wgxa, awm
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