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A Journey of Compassion and Dignity in Life’s Final Moments

NVDA pic

“In the tender and vulnerable moments of life’s closing chapter, solitude often looms for some of our nation’s finest heroes,” said OVAHCS, Chaplain Eunice Smith.

“These Veterans, who have sacrificed so much of their lives to our nation, find comfort in the compassionate arms of a dedicated team, with the noble mission of ensuring their transition into the great beyond is met with the same unwavering commitment they once offered to us all.”

Cristina Mercado Acevedo, OVAHCS Chief for the Center of Development and Civic Engagement explains that the No Veteran Dies Alone Program’s (NVDA) aim is to ensure that Veterans are honored as their remarkable life story comes to a close by a volunteer or staff member who is made available to comfort them within 72 hours before their passing.

“The NVDA program is designed to honor Veterans and to meet the unfulfilled needs of those Veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone at the end of their life, said Mercado Acevedo.”

For Smith, the meaning of the program is personal. Her brother Elois Woodard was one of five brothers drafted into the Armed Services. He was a Marine and Purple Heart recipient that served in the Korean War.

“Prior to passing away, he had wandered out of his home in the early morning hours in the cold streets of San Francisco and succumbed to the elements all alone,’ said Smith.

The memory of this personal tragedy is still vivid in her mind today.

A poignant incident involving OVAHCS Nurse, Kiley Hilderbrandt caring for a Veteran also underscores the urgency of the program's importance.

Hilderbrandt recalls a situation with a Veteran’s daughter who needed to leave her father to tend to her young child.

She specifically remembers the daughter’s request to not allow her father to pass away alone. The Veteran eventually passed away with nursing staff by his bedside.

Due to Hilderbrandt’s experience, she reached out to Mercado Acevedo to inquire about what options may be available for special circumstances and a committee was formed.

“We deal with oncology patients, and they sometimes don’t have families that are available towards the end of their life,” said Allexius Harrell, OVAHCS nurse. “Especially during the midnight shift when families are not present. Having someone there for Veterans during this time makes a world of difference.”

Hilderbrandt explains that since June 2023, the program has grown significantly.

“100% of Veterans who qualified for program have been served thus far. Plans for the expansion of the program are currently underway and there appears to be no shortage of volunteers willing to help, said Hilderbrandt.” 

Harrell states that, “Veterans weren’t alone in the battlefield, so they should not be alone at the end of their life.”

According to Mercado Acevedo, numerous volunteers have voiced their eagerness to spend time with Veterans who lack companionship before reaching the end of their life.

“Consequently, we have established a new companionship program allowing NVDA volunteers to engage with Veterans, build meaningful relationships, and provide comfort before the end-of-life process has begun,” said Mercado Acevedo.

She goes on to say that “dedicated volunteers provide books, games, puzzles, and other activities to share with Veterans to help with fostering connection and moments of companionship.”

The OVAHCS Director/CEO, Timothy J. Cooke supports the program and feels that it upholds our organization’s sacred promise.

“By honoring Veterans in their final moments, being present with them, and expressing our genuine compassion, we ensure that a gentle embrace of humanity accompanies them as they leave their incredible mark in our memories,” said Cooke. “We should all be just as hopeful that when our time comes, others will extend a similar hand of dignity and compassion.

For more information on how to become a “No Veteran Dies Alone,” program volunteer, or assist with other needed areas, please email:




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