CHAPIN, S.C. (WIS) -November is National Veterans and Military Families month, and it is also Hospice Month. Here in the Midlands, one retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel has donated his time to veterans in hospice - and giving back so much more.
Rick Mantei and his 13-year-old daughter Sara Mantei volunteer with Homestead Hospice out of Columbia. For the past four months, each Sunday they spend a few hours with a veteran in hospice, but for each person they meet, they bring them gifts purchased with their own money.
“I mean you’re there for just an hour or two, you can’t change what their lives are, you can’t change their health, you can’t change any of that, but you can make it fun,” Rick Mantei said.
The Manteis say what is given to them in return is far more humbling.
“We go and we visit them and we try to bring a little bit of fun into their life for the couple hours we can go visit with them,” Rick Mantei said. “We let them have a chance to tell us about their lives the good things the bad things the mistakes, the accolades, and we take it all in.”
Mantei said besides the joy he gets from spending time with veterans, his daughter learns immeasurable lessons that go beyond a textbook.
“She gets to find out that freedom isn’t free,” Rick Mantei said. “She gets to hear these stories that you’re not going to read in the book, you’re not going to see them on tv. These are real people telling their real life stories.”
“Every time that I’ve gone, it’s just been really rewarding for me to see and learn about each and every person that we’ve seen,” Sara Mantei said.
Sunday afternoon, they spent their time with Mr. Boyd Browne. Browne, 89, served in the Army in the Korean war, and is also a two time survivor of polio.
Rick and Sara brought Browne a Christmas tree, two turkeys for his family to cook on Thanksgiving, and a hand built model airplane.
“We get more out of it than the veterans do,” Rick Mantei said. “These people really are the heroes in all of this.”
In the past four months, Rick and Sara have helped about 10 families.
They said their goal is to make sure each veteran they meet feels loved and appreciated, and their story is never forgotten.
If you’d like to volunteer with Homestead Hospice, you can contact Erin Clark at 803-509-8844, or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.