HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – An Airman with Hanscom’s Medical Treatment Facility spends time each month with terminally ill veterans at a facility in the local area.
Tech. Sgt. Talisa Bell has been volunteering with Hospice Services of Massachusetts since arriving to Hanscom late last year.
“I am always looking for ways to give back to the community where I serve,” she said. “When I arrived at Hanscom, I researched local volunteer opportunities in the field of medicine and got involved with this organization, specifically supporting veterans who are nearing the end of life.”
Volunteers like Bell, who is the 66th Medical Squadron’s Medical Operations Flight chief, provide friendship when family and friends cannot be there for a veteran.
“I enjoy honoring our veterans and listening as they reminisce about their time in the military,” said Bell, who has been in the Air Force for 11 years. “Doing this near the end of their life makes it all the more rewarding.”
Bell was meeting in-person with veterans up to three times per month before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I now talk to them on the phone. It’s not quite the same, but still allows me to listen to their stories and be a friend,” she said. “Either way, they enjoy being able to talk about their time in the military and asking me about my experiences in the Air Force.”
As an honor guard member earlier in her career, Bell recalls presenting flags to funeral directors because no family members were able to attend.
“It’s unfortunate that some of our veterans, who gave so much, have no family -- for whatever reason -- able to attend their funeral,” she said.
Bell said are many reasons why a veteran might not have someone at the end of their life, including outliving family members or none living in the local area.
According to the Hospice Services of Massachusetts website, volunteers increase the quality of life by offering emotional support and companionship to patients.
Before volunteering, Bell attended a comprehensive training program. She learned about hospice, ways to improve communication, active listening, identifying and respecting cultural differences and grief and the healing process.
The Hanscom NCO seeks volunteer opportunities that help her develop professionally in the medical career field.
“Volunteering at facilities such as this provides the opportunity to work with medical personnel and gain hands-on experience,” said Bell. “It’s a passion of mine to help people.”
While the terminally-ill veterans are grateful for their time with her, it’s Bell who is the appreciative one.
“It is important to recognize all of our veterans, whether they served four years or an entire career, because each veteran contributed to the freedoms we enjoy,” said Bell. “Gratitude is one of the best expressions of love and when we recognize these individuals we show them that their sacrifice did not go unnoticed.”