UH Geauga Launches New Veterans Program
September 21, 2023 by Rose Nemunaitis

The bond forged through shared experiences and values between brothers and sisters in arms creates a kinship like none other.

The bond forged through shared experiences and values between brothers and sisters in arms creates a kinship like none other.

University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center honored these bonds with the launch of its new program Veterans Visiting Veterans.

“It is humbling and satisfying to be able to visit other veterans,” said Sgt. Major Douglas Lundblad, a highly decorated veteran from Hambden Township, who began visiting veterans at the hospital as part of the program back in July. “Veterans share a unique bond. No matter when or where you served, you will always have a story to share with one another. It brings me a sense of happiness and calmness to just take five or 10 minutes to help make them feel better just in the short time I’m with them.”

The program involves military veterans visiting those staying at UH Geauga Medical Center to share camaraderie, benefits information, keepsakes and expressions of gratitude.

Lundblad — a Geauga County Veterans Service commissioner and newly-appointed Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services member — has visited roughly 30 veterans.

Karen Cico, UH Geauga Medical Center’s pastoral care volunteer services coordinator, runs the program which officially began in the middle of June.

“Volunteer services is actively recruiting local veterans to be a part of this program as veterans enter the hospital with the sole purpose of visiting (them),” Cico said. “We are learning that many of our veterans do not realize how they may qualify for benefits through the Veterans Affairs.”

Ron Weese, a member of Burton American Legion Post 459, is a volunteer at UH Geauga Medical Center and was one of the first to enter the program.

Cico said Weese has been instrumental in reaching out to the local posts and legions to promote the program.

Both Lundblad and Weese have been helping with recruitment to pave the way for other area veterans to join.

“Our goal is to have veterans coming in weekly to visit with our veteran patients,” Cico said. “We have found that not only the … patient, but their family members appreciate the visit.”

Cico said Geauga County has many patients and staff members who are veterans.

“There is a special connection regardless of what branch they have served during their active service,” Cico said. “They get each other, they understand and the validation that comes with thanking them for their service means a lot.”

Lundblad looks forward to the visits.

“We give the veteran a UH hat that has their branch of service they served in — army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard,” he said. “We also give them a magnet to post on their room door to display to visitors and staff that they are a veteran. Our staff is very grateful for the veterans as many of them have noticed the patients’ spirits lifted from the visit.”

The program is looking for more volunteer veterans.

“We have found there is a great need for connecting with our veterans and look forward to continuing the recruitment process so that we will have a full schedule for visits each week,” Cico said, adding her goal is to have one volunteer visit each day.

“I expected to go and visit for five minutes, but some of the veterans are so happy to be able to talk with another veteran that has similar shared experiences, I ended up talking with them for at least a half an hour,” Lundblad said.

Those interested may contact Cico at UH Geauga Medical Center, 440-285-6271.