The nationwide Veterans Honor Flight program is designed to give veterans a chance to go to Washington DC and see the memorials dedicated to their service. The chapter in Marion, Ill. participates in these events and the local Heartland Regional Medical Center has stepped in to help by not only providing nurses who accompany the veterans on their trips to provide medical care but feeds their families while they await their return.
That latter service started during the third Honor Flight out of Marion when the spouse of a veteran was invited to have lunch at the hospital while she was waiting.
“My husband was the guardian for her veteran on the trip,” says Julie Moses, director for dining contractor HHS Culinary at Heartland. “This sparked an idea with a contact at the hospital who is on the Honor Flight Committee.”
As a result, starting with the fourth flight, the Heartlands HHS kitchen staff began doing a spouse and family dinner. The local transportation company brings the families to the hospital and the dining staff then provides them with a full family style meal prepared specially by Executive Chef Wayne Arment and served by the kitchen staff along with hospital and outside volunteers.
“We have televisions running pictures of their veterans’ activities during the day so they can see what they have been doing,” Moses says.
The first family meal served 65-70 individuals, which swelled to 90 at the second one and nearly 170 on the last one, which took place October 1st. It included a choice of prime rib or creamy spinach chicken, scalloped potatoes, green beans and a roll with peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert. Volunteers from the hospital, churches and local organizations served drinks, main course, dessert and coffee “like professionals,” Moses says.
“In doing this dinner, we found that there weren’t any other sites that were providing a family type dinner of this style and many also do not have nurses provided on the flights,” she adds. “With as many flights (hubs) there are for honor flights, starting a trend for more places to provide meals and staff would be awesome!”