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by Polly Carver-Kimm
Vietnam veteran Steven Gould was honored October 25 with a veteran “pinning” ceremony arranged by the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Ayr. The ceremony was held at Clearview Home in Mount Ayr. It coincided with Steven’s 66th birthday.
“Steve loved the medical field and he loved saving lives,” says his wife, Dianne Gould. Steve, who is a Vietnam combat duty Coast Guard veteran, served as search and rescue in Sikorsky helicopters. “Back in the day it was said that no one had ever gotten as many Sikorsky awards as he did,” says Dianne, who remembers Steve would sometimes jump in the water from the helicopter in full uniform, including boots, to rescue a wounded soldier. He would often perform surgery to save a life, even though Steve is not a doctor.
Steven and Dianne met in 1974. She had become ill while living on the Coast Guard base with her parents and Steve, who was stationed on the base, paid a friend $20 so he could ride in the ambulance that took her from Staten Island to New York. They became close friends and later married, raising three children. A fourth child, a twin of their oldest child, died at birth.
“I have never known Steve to be angry towards anyone. He would give the shirt off his back to a stranger. If he was standing in a grocery line and saw an elderly person or a single mom unable to pay for all their groceries, he would jump in and pay. It brings us such great joy to see this in our children,” says Dianne.
When Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer, Dianne cared for him in their North Carolina home until she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed help with Steve’s care. Because of VA benefits and their daughter living in Iowa, it was decided Steve would move to Iowa while Dianne continued treatment in North Carolina.
“I pondered the idea of him being so very far away from me should he pass, but I pray that I am well enough to [get back to Iowa] in time to be with him,” Dianne said.
Dianne, who is also a Coast Guard veteran, says the pinning ceremony was emotional for everyone. “I have seen my husband cry, but never in public. When Psalm 91 was read, I knew he would cry.” Steve and his older brother both wore dog tags engraved with Psalm 91.
EveryStep’s veteran pinning ceremonies provide honor, dignity and recognition to veterans at the end of their lives. Family members and friends are often on hand with EveryStep staff and volunteers during the celebratory events, which include the Pledge of Allegiance, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the singing of “God Bless America,” a reading of “What is a Veteran,” and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.
EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran program is a special service pairing veterans who are volunteers with hospice patients who have served our country. A specialized Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer can provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients. Veterans bring a unique skill set to help patients find peace at the end of life.