MEDINA, Ohio - Moving to Medina from Raleigh, North Carolina to be near family, Haywood and Connie Riley have been overwhelmed by outreaching-arms of welcome to their new home in Ohio.
One of those welcomes came in the form of recognition Friday by two hospice groups dedicated to helping veterans and their families: Hospice of the Western Reserve and Hospice of Medina.
Receiving recognition in 2013 has been a long time coming for many veterans, especially those whom had done tours in Vietnam. The Rileys are extremely grateful.
"It means everything to us. He's a Vietnam Marine and he wasn't welcomed home," Connie Riley said in an emotional response to what the day meant at the Weymouth Club.
"The good people in this country, they always say thank you and it means a lot to us. My platoon that I had in Vietnam, were just here in Medina and we've been getting together now since about 1988 on Memorial weekend. We get together and just relive some things," said USMC Sgt. Major Haywood Riley.
"But, you have to get on with your life. If you have a family, your responsibility is to a family and that's a priority in the way I feel," Haywood Riley said.
Feeling of family is why Vietnam War Marine Don Stark volunteers for the Hospice of the Western Reserve in an effort to reach out to veterans who may feel the need to discuss their past or their troubles. Facing death with families of those who have served is also close to Stark's heart.
Stark also said recognition like the state of Ohio-shaped pins given out Friday placed well-needed smiles on his fellow colleagues who have seen perhaps too much of what war had to offer while serving their country.
"I volunteer in all sorts of facets of Hospice of the Western Reserve, but I pretty much zone in on helping end-of-life veterans, veterans who are need of support and family support for them," said Stark. "It's very enjoyable for me."
Haywood Riley and Stark found themselves discussing Riley's future here in Ohio. Always the Sergeant Major looking out for his men, Riley decided he will soon be part of the Marine effort Stark has been pioneering for local veterans and their families when Hospice finds its way into their lives.
For info on Hospice of the Western Reserve and its services for anyone grieving, or in need, go to: www.hospicewr.org