Over the years, Memorial Day weekend has come to mean something different to me and my family. It is not just about trips to the Jersey shore or barbeques with friends. To us, it is a time of remembrance – an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary lives and sacrifice made by servicemen and women across the country, even members of our own family.
PHOTO: Samaritan’s hospice team, local Boy Scout troop, U.S. Army representative, and additional family honoring Veteran Thomas Zippilli with a special ceremony for his service to our country.
My late father, Thomas Zippilli, was drafted and served in the Vietnam War. He was trained to be a heavy equipment driver and would frequently transport higher military personnel from location to location. He saw action, observed a lot of awful things, experienced many close calls and lost close friends during his time in service.
I wasn’t prepared when my father neared the end of his life. Veterans have very distinct needs, and the team at Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice honored him with respect, compassion and grateful acknowledgement of his service. With their support and guidance, my father received the care he deserved and needed with the utmost dignity.
My father passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by the people who loved him most. I’ll never forget the last moment we shared together. In his last 30 seconds, my father opened his eyes one last time. Our nurse from Samaritan told us that it was OK to talk to him. As I looked into my father’s eyes, words started to fail me and all I could think to say was, “Thank you – for everything.”
It was a beautiful moment – a simple statement of gratitude for everything my father has done, not only me and my family but also the nation. A few words of thanks delivered with such sincerity, recognizing years of hard work, love, service and sacrifice. It did not need to be complex or profound – it just needed to be from the heart and with love.
Each year, I ask myself how we can best honor people like my father, our veterans who fought on behalf of our freedom. Charged with the huge responsibility of keeping us safe and away from harm, our servicemen and women ensure our liberties remain intact. How can we possibly begin to recognize them for the enormity of their sacrifice?
The answer is so simple: we honor these individuals through remembrance, by calling attention to their work, acknowledging their service and honoring their sacrifice. It is through our remembrance that each of our veterans’ legacies live on for the generations to come.
But it does not need to happen just on Memorial Day – we have the ability and responsibility to ensure these extraordinary individuals are remembered every day of the year.
So, let it begin here, let it begin today and let it begin with you and me.
Tara Bedford is a resident of Washington Township, NJ. Her father, Thomas Zippilli, was a Vietnam veteran who passed away in March 2019, under the care and guidance of Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice’s veterans hospice program.