Sentinels Connecting with Veterans

1 year ago

The Society is contacted daily with the public asking questions, requesting presentations, or just wanting to share photos. So when the following email came in from a hospice nurse, it caught our attention:

"Stanley Larry Johnson served in the army 1964-1993 MP has a 90-day hospice prognosis. He was just able to be on Indy honor flight #35 and visit Arlington and witness the changing of the guards. His only regret and wish was to shake the hand of an honor guard and the logistics of that made that impossible that day. Larry just turned 80 on May 24 is there any possibility of making this hospice Wish a reality?" - Stephanie Blackwell

Reaching out to our network of current and former Tomb Guards we were able to rally the troops and surprise Larry with a few visits.

Former Sentinel William Kizziar (1980-81) took two days off of work and drove 4-hours to meet with Larry at his home in Indianapolis. As he prepared for the trip, he felt it was appropriate to present something to Larry:

"Many years ago, in 1982, I was preparing to head to Germany. I went to a pawn shop to trade something or other for a CB radio I wanted to put in my car. I saw in the glass enclosure a Tomb Guard Badge. At the time, I thought who the heck would pawn his Tomb Guard Badge? What dire straits would a Sentinel have to be in to pawn his badge? So, I bought it from the shop. I wear that badge on my motorcycle vest to mark the occasion. I told Ms. Blackwell I would present that badge to Larry on the condition that when he passed, they would send it back to me. She agreed. She was over-the-top thankful to the Society and all it was about to do to make this "Hospice Wish" come true."

"I am honored to be a part of this and mightily humbled. Thanks for letting me be a part of this." - William Kizziar (1980-81)

After the visit the following email came in:

"Dear Tomb Guard Society, I am not even quite sure how to compose the proper expression of gratitude that I want to extend to all of the sentinels past and present. I was always aware of what a rare and distinct honor it is to wear the badge of a Tomb Guard.

What I was unaware of was the graciousness, the selflessness and the generosity of the Sentinel Soldier retired. That has been demonstrated over the last few days by the multiple phone calls I have received to help fulfill the wish of an 80 year old veteran of the Army in hospice care. After the opportunity to be on flight 35 of the Indy Honor flight and visit Arlington cemetery to watch the changing of the guards, this veteran had one regret and that was the missed opportunity to shake the hand of a Sentinel Soldier.

The response of your organization and the outpouring of care from Sentinels whose badge numbers ranged from low double digits to the high 300s. Even more beautiful was witnessing the interaction between Sentinel William Kizziar and Larry Johnson today. You have changed his life‘s course. Today he was not preoccupied with the burden that illness brings but with the sheer shock, excitement, and awe of having a Tomb Guard soldier sitting in his living room shaking his hand and thanking him for his service to this country. Wish granted. Regret gone. Completely blown away.

This is not where the story ends. What is remarkable is Larry will also be receiving cards/care packages, phone calls, and a couple more visits as retired Tomb Guards visit the Indy area over the next month. God willing Larry will be well enough and able to receive all these blessings. Only God knows the answer to that.

What I do know is today his spirit is whole.
What I do know today is his heart is full.
What I do know today is he feels loved.
What I do know is today he feels valued.
What I do know is today he feels seen.

What I do know is today he feels appreciated by one of the most highly regarded group of Soldiers in service past and present. Please accept my heart felt thank you. May God bless all of you and keep you all under the blanket of protection that you so selflessly provided all of us and continue to provide each and every day so that we may live free. Thank you." - Stephanie Blackwell.

Ensuring that secrecy was kept we planned a few more visits with Larry. On July 22, 2022, former Sentinel John Van Kan (1984-87) and his father-in-law Roby Hayworth, a retired Fireman from Columbus Fire Department, met with Larry at the American Legion Post in Beach Grove, IN.

"We spent the afternoon with Larry playing euchre. It was a nice visit and I got to dispel a couple myths about the Tomb and the Sentinels for some of the other folks from the American Legion who were there at the same time." - John Van Kan

John Van Kan (1984-87), Larry Johnson, and Roby Hayworth.

Larry, it was our honor to meet a fellow warrior and veteran of this nations Armed Forces. Thank you for allowing us into your home.

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