Inspiration

Veterans’ Day: A Reminder that Heroes Walk Among Us

frank_hay

Frank Hay

The 68-year-old courier has tried to put his memories of the unpopular war in Southeast Asia behind him. He certainly doesn’t think of himself as a hero. Nevertheless, while Frank Hay was making his rounds at Houston Hospice recently, his Vietnam Veteran ball cap was spotted by a staff member who thanked him for his service. He nodded his thanks and thought he’d be on his way until the staff member invited him to talk about the war. Houston Hospice is part of The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s “We Honor Veterans” program. As a result of learning more about the needs of veterans and their families, staff members have a tendency to notice vets.

An 18-Year-Old in America

In 1966, 18-year-old Frank Hay and his family lived a quiet country life on the banks of a lake outside North Guilford, Connecticut. North Guilford is a pleasant town with a volunteer firehouse, a general store and a gas station. As a kid, Frank got a kick out of walking on the lake’s barely submerged island to the astonishment of visitors who thought he was walking on water. With a school career frustrated by dyslexia behind him, Frank went to work as a Railway Postal Clerk. He counted bags of mail that were loaded and unloaded from rail cars as part of the Railway Post Office (RPO). Frank’s family knew young men were being conscripted to assist with a conflict in a place called Vietnam, so they weren’t surprised when he was drafted.

Frank was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for pre-induction physical examinations and testing. His dyslexia caused the army to suspect he was faking to get out of service. However, additional testing revealed a high IQ and the kid who grew up deer hunting in the woods of Connecticut was trained to be a gunner on a helicopter. During basic training Frank recalls thinking the war was a game. “I thought we’d come in and say ‘John Wayne’s here. Step aside.’ The first time someone got shot, I thought, ‘Wow! This is real.”’

Confusing New World

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Frank’s first impressions of Vietnam were clouded by confusion. “We’re in our own world in the U.S. and when you go there you realize things are not the same.” He felt disoriented to be in a place where people were so impoverished that they were forced to sell a child rather than part with a cow. Frank had been in Vietnam only seven months when his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed killing the pilot and co-pilot. He was captured immediately by the enemy who took him into the jungle where they were holding other prisoners of war. There were no POW camps at that time so the enemy cut the sole of Frank’s foot to prevent him from escaping.

Prisoner of War

He remembers being moved constantly for 14 months. “I talked with other prisoners but I didn’t become close because a lot of them died. Some of them went loony.” Fellow POWs died of disease and starvation. Frank figures he lost about 50 pounds. “We’d stay in a hole dug in the ground with bars over it. They fed us rice and fish. I’ll never eat rice again.” During the constant moves, the prisoners were separated and brought back together. Whenever Frank’s foot began to heal, it was cut again. “I took my anger out on God. I’d say ‘Why did you let this happen?’ ‘Why don’t you do something?’ I couldn’t be mad at the enemy. They were soldiers too.”

One day while the prisoners were out of their holes for a move, their encampment came under fire from a U.S. Army helicopter. Everyone ran. Guards ran. Prisovietnam_1967ners ran — in all directions. Frank ended up half running and half hobbling with two other prisoners. “We just kept running until we ran into a U. S. Army unit.” He was taken to a field hospital where he was treated and debriefed. From there, Frank went to a VA hospital. After his injuries healed he was sent home.

People Asked Why I Was There

Frank didn’t stay in touch with any of the guys he met in Vietnam. He didn’t keep a uniform, or a photo or any memento of his service. “After the war, people asked why I was there and why I was fighting and killing. We were just soldiers on both sides. We were only doing what we were told. I just wanted to get on with my life.” Frank recalls being spit on and called a baby killer. He went to the VFW Hall in Guilford, Connecticut where he was ridiculed. “The other vets said that Vietnam was not really a war.” Frank resents being denied camaraderie at the hall. “In those days they had dances, parties and baseball games. Now it’s just a place to go drinking. I’m tired of older people coming up and shaking my hand. Where were you when I came home?”

Frank doesn’t like to talk about the war. But in an act of extreme generosity, he did. He did move on. He moved to Houston and, at 50, met and married his wife who hails from Buffalo, New York. Frank has no desire to return to Vietnam. The courier has moved on but some wounds remain.

We Honor Veterans

About Houston Hospice: As a leader in hospice care for people of all ages and all walks of life, nonprofit Houston Hospice provides for the distinct needs of Veterans and their families through its We Honor Veterans Program. Care is provided to patients and families in private homes and in residential facilities throughout Houston and 10 surrounding counties. Inpatient care is provided in the Houston Hospice Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center in the Texas Medical Center. To learn more about the We Honor Veterans Program and other services, call 713-468-2441 or visit www.houstonhospice.org.

—Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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Mitch Albom: bringing humor & insight to Houston

According to Albom We’re All Connected

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom, best-selling author, journalist and broadcaster will make a rare Houston appearance to speak at the Houston Hospice 15th Annual Butterfly Luncheon on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. With the humor, insight and compassion that made his first novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, a runaway best-seller, Albom, will talk about the connectedness that serendipitously results from the seemingly random path of life’s journey. This is a major theme of his latest book, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, in which he notes that we’re all in a band, in fact several bands of people and groups throughout our lifetime. This book entices us to examine what part we’re playing in each of those “bands”.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Being a Rock Star

An aspiring musician, Albom played in bands throughout his adolescence and worked as a performer after college. When he took an interest in journalism in his early 20’s Albom returned to graduate school, earning a Master’s degree in Journalism, followed by an MBA. He turned full-time to his writing, eventually moving to Detroit, where he became a nationally-acclaimed sports journalist at the Detroit Free Press. His first book, Tuesdays with Morrie is the chronicle of time spent with his beloved professor. Albom wrote the book to help pay Morrie’s medical bills, and to his great surprise it spent four years on the New York Times Bestseller list. A succession of best sellers followed including, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, Have a Little Faith, The Time Keeper and The First Phone Call from Heaven. In his latest book, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Albom has merged his love of music and writing with his virtuoso main character’s Forest Gump-like romp through the music world.

You’re Invited

The community is invited to attend the Butterfly Luncheon and hear Mitch Albom on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at the Houstonian Hotel located at 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, Texas 77024. Registration begins at 11 a.m. Individual tickets and table reservations are available at www.houstonhospice.org or by calling 713-467-7423. Copies of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto will be available for purchase and signing.

What It’s All AboutCharlieHoldingInfant-Mobile

Proceeds from the luncheon fund Houston Hospice operations and its Butterfly Program of pediatric hospice care. The Butterfly Program was developed in 1996 to meet the needs of children with life-limiting conditions. Through this program, a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, hospice aides and volunteers with expertise in children’s care are devoted to caring for children and their families.

—Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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Terri and John Havens – Spirit Award Recipients

The Havens to Have Channeled Success Into Support

On behalf of its Board of Directors, and Spirit Award Dinner Chairmen, Kay and Paul Mansfield, Houston Hospice is very pleased to announce that Terri and John are the recipients of the 2015

Terri and John Havens

Terri and John Havens

Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award. Terri and John Havens have channeled their success as business owners into support for the community. They each have a passion for growing businesses and are fully dedicated to all of the charities they support.

As the leader of Seismic Exchange, Inc. (SEI), John has grown the business to be the largest 2D and one of the largest 3D seismic data and marketing firms in North America. John has led the charge to vertically integrate the business with the additions of a seismic reproduction company and seismic data processing company. John has also acquired other businesses, including Vista Valley Country Club in California, and is a minority owner of the Houston Astros and Houston Oaks Golf Club.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

Terri and John are the owners of Cal-a-Vie Health Spa and Vista Valley Country Club. Nestled on 200 private acres in a secluded valley in Vista, California, 40 miles north of San Diego, Cal-a-Vie is an exclusive retreat known to many celebrities, and boasts 32 guest villas and a 5:1 staff-to-guest ratio. Terri’s advertising and marketing expertise, along with her natural “Southern Hospitality” and commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle, has helped cultivate Cal-a-Vie’s award-winning wellness and fitness program, which has been voted the number-one “Destination Health Spa in North America” by Travel + Leisure, amongst others.

Making Houston Better

In addition to encouraging health and wellness for their spa guests, the Havens put their heart into causes that are dear to them, as evidenced by their many philanthropic endeavors. Terri and John support numerous organizations that ensure access to healthcare, education, and culture. Terri serves as the Secretary of I Am Waters and is a board member of the Astros Foundation, the Children’s Museum of Houston, and Bayou Bends Gardens and is actively involved with Star of Hope. Terri acts as the Texas Children’s Hospital Ambassador Chairman and is an active supporter of Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center. She has chaired commendable events such as the Hermann Park Gala and Heroes for Handbags.

Terri and John have each received honors for their philanthropic efforts. John has been inducted into the LSU Hall of Distinction and Terri has been voted a top mom by the Easter Seals’ Great Houston’s “Hats off to Mothers” event. Together, they were voted one of the most outstanding couples in Houston by Inspire Women, were the 2012 Gala honorees and recipients of the Krist Samaritan Spirit Award, and were the 2014 Houston Children’s Charity Gala honorees, among others.

Terri and John have found a perfect balance of success, both professionally and personally, coupled with an active household of three children, Prentiss, 17, Davis, 13, and Mallette, 12. Admitted Francophiles, John and Terri always find time for family, friends, travel, collecting antiques, and restoring historic homes.

The Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award Dinner

Terri and John were recognized at the 17th Annual Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award Dinner Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 6 p.m. at River Oaks Country Club at 1600 River Oaks Blvd., Houston, Texas 77019. Table sponsorships for the dinner help fund medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support provided by non-profit Houston Hospice.

—Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communications Specialist

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GIRL WHO INSPIRED “THE FAULT IN OUR STARS” STILL INSPIRES WITH HELP FROM HER PARENTS

Esther Grace Earl’s short life inspired the bestselling book, The Fault in Our Stars and the blockbuster movie of the same name. Since her death in 2010 she is far from forgotten as her parents prepare to bring her story to Houston and extend Esther Grace’s exuberant influence on Thursday, April 2 at the 2015 Houston Hospice Butterfly Luncheon.

This Star Won't Go Out

Lori and Wayne Earl, Esther’s parents and co-authors of New York Times Bestseller and Goodreads Choice 2014 winner This star won’t go out: The Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl, will share the amazing story of Esther Grace; her battle with cancer and her wit, courage and unflappable spirit that inspired one of the biggest teen phenomena of our era. With Esther as muse, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars explored the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

People Magazine gave This star won’t go out 4 stars saying, “This moving read will have you reaching for the tissues and smiling with delight. Stunningly alive on the page, Esther shows that sometimes the true meaning of life—helping and loving others—can be found even when bravely facing death.”

Together, Lori and Wayne contributed to and curated the memoir of their daughter, Esther Grace Earl. One of five children, Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 12-years old. Before losing her battle with cancer in 2010, Esther’s friendship with John Green became the inspiration for the book and movie, The Fault in Our Stars.

Inspired by their daughter’s energy and natural empathy, Esther’s parents set up the non-profit foundation This Star Won’t Go Out (TSWGO). The foundation works to serve families with children diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. To date, TSWGO has given away $200,000 in financial grants.

Lori Earl works as an Instructor and Student Success Coach at Quincy College. A certified secondary English teacher, with degrees in Psychology and Intercultural Studies, she is passionate about encouraging others to move towards wholeness, live life fully, and make a difference in their world.

Wayne and Lori Earl_Credit Jesse Costa-WBUR

Lori and Wayne Earl – Photo Credit Jesse Costa

Wayne Earl has taught philosophy for many years at Quincy College and he taught English overseas in Belgium and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Wayne has served several churches as a protestant minister in Massachusetts and France and worked as an ecumenical chaplain for Volunteers of America, a social services organization that focuses its work serving the very neediest. In college and seminary Wayne studied psychology and theology and he recently completed doctoral studies in Spirituality and Story at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC. His doctoral project focused on young adult grief and resilience and is entitled: Giving Sorrow Words: Helping Young Adult Grief Find Its Voice.

The Butterfly Luncheon supports a cause that is very close to the Earl’s hearts — it benefits the operations of Houston Hospice and provides the primary funds to support the Butterfly Program. The Houston Hospice Butterfly Program was established in 1996 to provide for the distinct hospice needs of infants and youth aged 18 and younger. The program includes perinatal services for families who have received a prenatal diagnosis indicating their infant will likely have a limited lifespan. A Butterfly Team consisting of physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, aides and volunteers with expertise in children’s physical and emotional well-being, is devoted to caring for children and their families. The Butterfly Program’s maxim is, “Measure not the length of their days, but the grace of their flight.”

On behalf of Chairmen Lesha and Tom Elsenbook, the community is invited to attend the Butterfly Luncheon and be inspired by Esther Grace, through her parents Lori and Wayne Earl, on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at the beautiful Houstonian Hotel located at 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, Texas 77024. Individual tickets and table reservations are available at www.houstonhospice.org. For more information about the Houston Hospice Butterfly Program and Luncheon, visit www.houstonhospice.org or call 713-677-7123.

Founded in 1980, Houston Hospice has evolved from an alternative, grass roots concept to a leader in hospice care for people of all ages and walks of life. Houston’s oldest, largest, independent hospice is a nonprofit organization that is community-based and community-supported. Houston Hospice serves Texans from all socio-economic groups irrespective of ethnicity or beliefs. Care is provided in-home and in residential facilities throughout Austin, Brazoria, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Jackson, Matagorda, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton Counties. Inpatient and respite care is provided through the Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center located in the Texas Medical Center.

-Karla Goolsby

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