L. Kent Murphy, a Korean War veteran, was honored by members of the Big Bend Hospice Valor Team as a client of Transitions, a free nonmedical program provided to individuals not eligible for hospice care, for his service to our country as an aviation boatswain's mate, petty officer first class (AB1) aboard the USS Valley Forge (CV-45).

Big Bend Hospice has been a proud partner in We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Murphy’s duties upon the USS Valley Forge, an aircraft carrier operating off the cost of Korea, involved overseeing sailors performing duties involved with launching and recovering aircraft on the flight deck. Those sailors wearing yellow flight deck jerseys known as “handlers” were responsible for moving aircraft about on the flight and hangar decks. Others wearing purple jerseys, often referred to as “grapes,” fueled planes prior to take-off and after landing. Other sailors wearing red jerseys performed crash rescue, firefighting, and damage control duties.

While Murphy served as a member of her crew, the Valley Forge was awarded eight battle stars for her Korean War service. The carrier served in the Far East in 1950 and was the first American carrier to take part in the Korean War. The first carrier air strike of the war was launched from her flight deck on July 3, 1950 and she provided support up and down the coast of Korea, while streaming a distance equal to twice around the world. Valley Forge's aircraft made numerous daily strikes against North Korean targets. As the conflict progressed, Valley Forge provided support for Gen. Douglas MacArthur's landings at Inchon in Sept. 1950. In Oct. 1952, Valley Forge again deployed to the Far East and became the only U.S. carrier to return to the Korea combat zone four times.

A Valor Ceremony is organized and performed primarily through military veteran and veteran supporter volunteers of Big Bend Hospice and donations. Murphy received a table-top American flag, courtesy of Woodmen Life, that was used to begin the ceremony through the Pledge of Allegiance. He was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a letter was read on behalf of Big Bend Hospice CEO Cathy Adkison. A legacy document was shared which included information about the triumphs of Valley Forge. The ceremony concluded with the highest honor one soldier can give to another – the salute.

Big Bend Hospice has made the highest commitment to the veteran-centric end-of-life care by developing a variety of services and programs to serve and honor veterans like Murphy. Some of the services offered through the Valor Program include Valor ceremonies, Tree of Life dog tag, Vet-to-Vet Visits and the Veterans Memorial Garden.

Big Bend Hospice offers Valor ceremonies to all of its patients as well as Transitions clients. During one of Murphy’s visits with his Transitions social worker, she informed them of our new AmeriCorps member volunteer program. Intrigued by the news, Murphy’s daughter Sherry thought this would be a great service for her father, as he spends most of his time at home, and knew he feels lonely at times. The social worker contacted the AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator, and together they figured AmeriCorps Member Volunteer Bruce McKibben would be a great match as he shares the client’s veteran background, Murphy a Navy veteran and McKibben Air Force. Bruce was contacted about his new assignment and without hesitation travelled the 45 miles to visit with Murphy.

Their first visit, in the family’s Wakulla County home, went off without a hitch and as such, Murphy asked if McKibben would visit him at least once a week. Since that initial meeting, he has been faithfully visiting the client every week. He and Murphy have such a great bond, and although his hearing can make it difficult at times to communicate, McKibben has found that writing a note when he’s having an especially difficult time hearing helps with their communication greatly.

Knowing Murphy likes John Grisham books, especially “The Rainmaker,” McKibben brings him a new Grisham book from his personal library each week, and during the visit, Murphy tells him all about the last book he read and great discussions soon follow. Sherry has been very pleased with the AmeriCorps program and is thankful Bruce makes the trip every week to visit with her father.

“AB1 Murphy is such a kind and sweet man,” McKibben said. “Before I leave after my visit, he grabs my hand and says, ‘Bruce, thank you so much. I really appreciate you visiting with me every week. I’ll see you next week.’”

In December, he told Murphy and his daughter that he would be retiring at the end of 2018. Both of them were aghast, thinking this meant he would not be visiting anymore. But McKibben assured them he would continue to visit and all was well. He has also been able to find a home for the family dog that Murphy’s family could no longer manage. “Buddy” was placed in a good home, much to the family’s delight.

Among Murphy’s favorite things are reading, watching older Westerns on TV, and his large collection of trinkets and memorabilia. This service has made such a big impact in the life of this family and we could not be prouder of and more thankful for our AmeriCorps member volunteer and his service to our families in the Big Bend area.

If you are interested in becoming a Valor volunteer or would like more information on Big Bend Hospice programs and services, please call 850.878.5310 or visit www.bigbendhospice.org