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Virtual Reality Goggles Take Veteran Patients on a Virtual Trip to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Ohio’s Hospice is now offering virtual tours for our Veteran patients who are not physically able to travel on an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. 

Through our Virtual Reality Goggles for Veterans program, Veterans can take a virtual trip to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where they can virtually tour war memorials and benefit from the nation’s expression of gratitude for their service. This type of virtual visit can provide closure, ease emotional pain, and fulfill long-standing dreams for our patients facing the end of life. 

Glenn Costie, chief of Veteran services at Ohio’s Hospice, described the new program as another step in the way of providing superior care and superior services to patients and their families through innovation and technology.

“Through the generosity of our communities throughout Ohio, we are able to provide programs that recognize and honor the sacrifices our Veteran patients have made for our nation,” Costie said. “As part of celebrating life’s stories, this new technology helps our Veteran patients share their stories.”

Through American Pride®Veteran Care by Ohio’s Hospice, Ohio’s Hospice honors the service of Veteran patients and assures them of receiving the highest quality of care. In addition to celebrating and thanking Veterans for their service, American Pride assists patients in obtaining benefits to which they are entitled. The American Pride program has been instrumental in enabling several Ohio’s Hospice patients to participate in Honor Flight visits to Washington, D.C. 

For those patients who have not been able to fly to Washington, D.C., the virtual reality goggles provide them with closure and an opportunity to reflect on their service in the military. 

Bob Allen, a Veteran volunteer with Hospice of Central Ohio, an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice, explained that the virtual reality goggles provide Veteran patients with 360-degree panoramas. The Veterans’ family members also can see what the Veteran is viewing by watching on an iPad, which is cached to the virtual reality goggles headset. While the Veteran moves their head around, the iPad tracks what they see, showing a two-dimensional picture of what the Veteran sees in 3-D. This provides the family with an idea of what the Veteran is seeing through the headset.  

“It’s a matter of closure for most of the Veterans,” Allen said. “Most of them have yet to talk about their experiences with their families. That part of their lives has been compartmentalized, or they have some guilt or remorse. The families have an opportunity to share in the moment.” 

Allen and Joe Machado, who also is a Veteran volunteer with Hospice of Central Ohio, have trained other Veteran volunteers on how to use the virtual reality goggles with Veteran patients. 

Machado said the Veterans he has shared the virtual reality goggles with have been pleased with the experience. “It is an emotionally meaningful moment for them to go back and see a memorial that was related to the military experience,” he said. “Some may have seen the memorial years ago, and this was a revisit. But for others, this was the first time they saw the war memorial.”

He explained that this is part of the American Pride® Veteran Care by Ohio’s Hospice. “We honor the Veteran, and we celebrate their service,” he said. “Through the virtual reality goggles, Veterans are able to talk about their experiences in the military based on what they see at the war memorial. We want them to be able to share their experiences and memories with their families.”

For the families, they are curious what their Veteran family member experienced during their military service. Because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many Veterans have not shared their experiences. Virtual reality goggles enable them to do so, bringing closure to their military experience.

Machado first learned about the virtual reality goggles through Sarah Hill, CEO and chief storyteller of StoryUP, a group of storytellers, psychologists, developers, filmmakers, audio engineers and technologists who developed a virtual reality solution for terminally-ill World War II Veterans who were not able to physically travel to see their war memorial in Washington, D.C.

StoryUP has produced a series of videos for Veterans. They include the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Women’s Memorial and the Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz. StoryUP is working on completing a video about the Korean War Memorial. 

Hill explained that the virtual reality goggles experience is not meant to replace the Honor Flight. “These Honor Everywhere virtual reality experiences are for Veterans who are physically unable to travel,” Hill said. “We are grateful to have the support and partnership of Ohio’s Hospice to be able to provide this program to more people.” 

At Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, Jeffery Johnson, a Veteran Volunteer, is excited to begin sharing the virtual reality goggles with Veteran patients. “Being able to bring their war memorials to them is simply phenomenal,” Johnson said. “It is heart-breaking to know that there are fallen warriors that did not get the chance, due to their failing health, to make the trip to Washington, D.C., to see their war’s memorial.” 

As a fellow Veteran, Johnson can identify with the Veteran patients. “If I was in the position that I could not make the Honor Flight journey, being able to see my war memorial up close, so close that you sense you could touch the stone, that would bring back fellow Veterans that I’ve served with and lost comrades in arms,” he said. “To sum it up, the experience is priceless and brings additional closure.”

At Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County, Veteran volunteer Wayne Melgaard is excited to begin offering this technology to Veteran patients who cannot make the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He is introducing it to Veterans in Miami County. 

For more information about scheduling a virtual reality goggles visit by an Ohio’s Hospice Veteran volunteer, contact Amy LeVan at 937.573.2111. 

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