- Associated Press - Monday, October 2, 2017

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - The last note of “God Bless America” still hung in the air as one by one, veterans from all services and backgrounds formed a single-file line to shake the hand of one of their own.

At least 40 former service members paid tribute to Vietnam War veteran and Army helicopter pilot Bobby Hope, who received a standing ovation for his bravery as a crew chief.

Hope will be one of hundreds of veterans who can take advantage of a new Veteran Garden that officially opened the morning of Sept. 22 at Rock Hill’s Hospice & Community Care facility off India Hook Road.

“America is safe and secure because of our veterans,” said Dave Shiple, hospice veteran volunteer. “As long as the flag is flying above our country, we will never forget their sacrifices.”

The hospice’s new memorial garden, just steps away from the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House, was officially opened during an emotional ceremony with nearly 100 attendees. It’s a project four years in the making, according to Shiple, who presented Hope with a commemorative hospice pin for his sacrifice.

The garden began as a concept, Shiple said, and became a reality thanks to donations from volunteers and family members of those who spent their final days at the hospice.

The garden features stone columns representing all five branches of the military, a flagpole, and several benches for veterans to sit and rest.

“You can come and contemplate,” said John Wentling, chaplain of the Olde English Leathernecks Marine Corps League. “You can let go of things from your time in combat, sit and reflect, be with family. It’s a big deal to honor these veterans. (The hospice) means what they say and say what they mean.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill) presented an American flag, which waved over the capital in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, to fly over the new garden. Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant presented a South Carolina flag, which once flew over the Statehouse.

“I’m honored to be a part of this,” Bryant said. “I thank every veteran here for putting their life on the line.”

The Winthrop University Trombone Choir played a medley of U.S. Armed Forces service songs, while local JROTC cadets from Nation Ford, Northwestern and South Pointe high schools helped raise the flags representing the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

By the time Annette Marlow and Kristine Nelson of the Patriotic Ladies of Rock Hill began performing “God Bless America” to close the ceremony, few eyes around the garden were dry.

“This will be used by an entire community,” Shiple said. “It’s an opportunity to rest and remember.”

The hospice is offering to engrave pavestones or bricks with the names of those who served. A brick can be purchased for $100-$250. Visit hospicecommunitycare.org for more.


Information from: The Herald, https://www.heraldonline.com

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