Nurses from Advocate Good Samaritan Serve Veterans through Honor Flight Chicago

LEFT: Hayley Emer, RN, served as a medical guardian for Harold, 87, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Korean Conflict; RIGHT: Leah Roman, RN, assisted Bob, 90, a U.S. Army and Navy veteran who served in both World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Honoring United States veterans was all in a day’s work for two nurses at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., who recently served as medical guardians on a trip with Honor Flight Chicago.

Hayley Emer and Leah Roman, both registered nurses in the hospital’s critical care unit, volunteered to provide medical assistance to veterans during a day-trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials.

Each flight consists of eight to 10 licensed physicians and nurses who ensure a safe and enjoyable day for everyone involved. The medical guardians, such as Emer and Roman, play an essential role in pushing veterans in wheelchairs, monitoring oxygen canisters and even providing emotional support.

Both Emer and Roman’s interest in Honor Flight Chicago stemmed from family members who have served in the military and volunteered with the organization.

The 20-hour day began at 4 am at Midway International Airport. Two hours later, the veterans flew to Washington, D.C., where they were treated like royalty as they were transported via coach bus from one war memorial to another. Highlights of the day included a fire department water salute, the Marine Corps silent drill team and even a special visit from former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

While in D.C., the nurses were each paired up with a veteran for the day.

Emer assisted Harold, 87, who served in the Korean Conflict and said the trip provided an opportunity for the veterans to share stories about their time in the service. Roman was paired up with Bob, 90, a World War II and Korean Conflict veteran who was determined to stand next to his wheelchair at each war memorial in a display of respect.

“The best part of the day for me was the respect and patriotism that was shown to these gentlemen. At one point in the day, a four-year-old walked up to one of the veterans and asked to shake his hand, thanking him for his service,” she said.

On the flight home, the veterans were treated to a surprise mail call, where they received a large manila envelope filled with photos, letters from family members and even drawings from grandchildren.

“You could just see the tears roll down their face when they realized how much people care about them,” said Roman.

Throughout the day, the vets thanked their nurses for spending the day with them.

“The sentiment was so true to their character. This generation is always willing to reach out and help others. They never make anything about themselves; instead they are just wonderful, humble people,” said Roman.

The day ended with a homecoming celebration where hundreds of friends, family and supporters welcomed the veterans home.

“It was a great way to end the day. The guys were so wired with adrenaline and excited to connect with their wives and family members,” Roman said.

Both Roman and Emer said they plan to apply for another trip with Honor Flight Chicago next year.

“Words really can’t express the emotions and feelings I encountered throughout the day on Honor Flight. It was one of the best days of my life. These humble heroes were so grateful for everything – when really we need to be grateful to them,” said Emer.

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