A retired veteran dedicates his time to honor veterans under the care of Cornerstone Hospice.
As a military veteran, John Creighton understands the value of being recognized for service to this country. The retired U.S. Army captain is a volunteer with Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, and he has made it his mission to visit veterans in hospice care and give them a ceremonial salute.
Since 2014, Creighton has conducted pinning ceremonies for 530 Central Florida veterans, averaging two or three each week. In the last week, the Dr. Phillips resident held two ceremonies in West Orange County — one in Windermere and a second one in Ocoee.
He will make visits to homes or the hospice unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
During the ceremony, Creighton reads a proclamation and a certificate of appreciation honoring the veteran for his or her service. He also pins a Cornerstone pin, designed with an American eagle and the words “Cornerstone Salutes.” Family members receive a Cornerstone pin with an American flag on it.”
The ceremony itself lasts about 90 seconds, he said, but he spends much more time talking with the veterans and their families.
“If the patient can talk, that’s the best part,” he said. “He can talk about his experiences.”
Finding out the veteran’s military history is one of the highlights of the visit, Creighton said.
“I touch history every time I talk to somebody,” he said. “I touch history that people only read about. I’ve talked to veterans who served with Gen. (George S.) Patton and those who served in the Battle of the Bulge. I did a ceremony (for) a sailor who has pictures of the atomic bomb going off in Japan.
“One guy was Jewish and (served in) World War II, and he helped free a concentration camp,” he said.
Creighton has spoken with many Vietnam War-era veterans, and he said many never have been publicly recognized.
“The first thing I say is, ‘Welcome home,’” he said. “Because most of them didn’t get that.”
The highlight of his volunteerism, he said, was honoring two Tuskegee Airmen.
“You can read about that stuff, but it doesn’t come close to actually talking to somebody who’s actually been there.”
It’s especially rewarding when the families hear stories for the first time.
“I find it fascinating that a complete stranger can sit down and, being a vet helps, and the next thing they’re talking about things they haven’t talked about in years,” he said. “A lot of veterans don’t talk about their experiences.
“Sometimes they’re ugly,” he said. “And sometimes a lot of people don’t understand what they’ve gone through.”
In 2017, Cornerstone recognized Creighton with his own ceremonial salute for his dedication to the visitation program.
On Nov. 17, he is participating in a group pinning ceremony at Valencia College West Campus when Cornerstone hosts a Tour to Honor, which takes veterans on a virtual tour of the war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care Inc. provides comfort and care to Central Florida families experiencing life-limiting illnesses. Its headquarters is in Tavares. A new patient facility is under construction near Health Central Hospital in Ocoee.