Arizona’s Heart & Sol: Hospice volunteer helps honor veterans

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 6:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It is typical to thank a veteran for their service, but David Falkner’s is far from over.

Falkner served in the Air Force, then the Air National Guard, before serving as a principal in southern Arizona for more than three decades. It’s easy to see he has dedicated his life to service. And now in his retirement years, he is not slowing down.

“Dave is our busiest volunteer,” said Julie Stafford, the Volunteer Coordinator at Emblem Hospice.

For the past eight years he’s dedicated his time to giving veterans at Emblem Hospice one final honor by not only bringing them gifts like blankets, cutouts of stars, and their own small American flag, but he gives them the final salute.

For Vietnam vets, he provides them key rings in yellow, green, and red. He also brings each veteran a certificate for their service.

“We make sure any veteran who comes into our hospice or we find along the way, we can help them to feel like their service was really important,” said Falkner.

“Dave will call people. He sends out letters. He’s modified our veteran packages to be COVID friendly,” Stafford said. “He even visits my own mother.”

He developed friendships over shared time and experience with the veterans, but sometimes he only has a short amount of time to spend with them before they die. Falkner said his shortest time spent with a veteran was within an hour of his death.

”We gave him what we were able to in the short time we had,” said Falkner. “When a veteran who seems almost incapable of doing much maybe in the last hours of his or her life they will find a way to return that salute. Men will cry, I’m a pretty easy crier so I have to appreciate if they can give that, I can give that back.”

Despite his long list of accomplishments, Falker said this is his most rewarding work yet.

“We have so many opportunities every day to pay something forward. Big, little. I’m even foolish enough to go looking for it sometimes. It’s just kind of fun. I can’t ever say I wish I hadn’t overlooked this opportunity,” said Falkner.

Thanks to our sponsor Casino del Sol for helping Dave pay it forward with a $300 gift card.

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