Two men who served their country during the Korean War sat quietly in wheelchairs right next to each other.
Around them were their families, eyes red and emotions welling, and in front of them a line Patriot Guard Riders proudly holding American flags.
The men, Jon Dietz and Robert Yeamans, never crossed paths until they ended up at the Shepherd of the Valley Healthcare Community in their twilight years.
On Thursday morning, the two veterans were given a final salute and tribute to their service as they prepare to enter hospice care.
The ceremony is part of a nationwide program aimed at veterans in hospice care.
“Last year we served 79 vets, this year we’ll probably double that,” said Central Wyoming Hospice executive director Kilty Brown.
The program helps hospice providers recognize unique needs veterans might have, said Brown.
“When you’re dying, your body is out of control and it might trigger some PTSD, some other health concerns or maybe there are (health) benefits veterans don’t know about and it’s our job to get them hooked up with them,” said Brown.
Brown says she’s seen veterans open up after the ceremonies and tell their families things about their service they’ve never talked about.
Jane Yeamans met Robert on a blind date after he served in Alaska during the Korean War.
Robert went into full-time care at Shepherd of the Valley in February after he was injured in a fall in February. His health has deteriorated since.
She was told about the veteran’s ceremony and gladly participated.
“I had no idea it was going to be so beautiful,” said Jane.
Joan Dietz met Jon in 1955 while working at the Rimrock Cafe.
Her father and grandfather had served in the military, and she intended to as well before meeting Jon after his service on the front lines in the Korean War.
“I was going to join the military then I met my love of my life,” said Joan. “That ended it.”
The couple have two sons who live in Rock Springs and Green River, both of whom were able to attend the ceremony on Thursday.
Joan took care of Jon has his health declined over the past several years before making the hard choice to put him in full-time care. Now she’s preparing to say goodbye for good.
“I could no longer take care of him,” said Joan, holding back tears. “It’s been a hardship.”
She was happy to see the respect given to veterans during the ceremony. “They fought for our freedom,” she said.
“The best part of these recognition ceremonies is when we get to say that last thank you,” said Kilty Brown