We Were Soldiers

Two WWII vets meet on Veterans Day

Veterans Paul Franzen (left) and Charlie Gray (right) with VNA and Masonic Village members.

Our celebration of Veterans Day this year had special meaning as we were honored to bring together two veterans of World War II.

At the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), we have a large number of veterans in our care and when our Nurse Practitioner Aileen heard a story from one of them about having served in North Africa and Italy during World War II, it sounded very familiar to her. Right away, she remembered another gentleman who also had vivid memories of the same battlegrounds!

Our team went straight into action to bring these two together! Chaplains, social workers, nurses, and Bob Haley, our veteran’s liaison, worked quickly to arrange a meeting for the veterans and their families. Just in time for Veterans Day, Paul Franzen and Charlie Gray met for the first time to swap stories about the war in the Mediterranean theater.

Discharge papers for Gray and Franzen

In comparing their military paperwork, you could see that they indeed both served in the same places at the same time between 1942 and 1945! Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy…one served as a cook (Gray) and the other as a combat medic (Franzen). Both received good conduct medals and both received Bronze Stars. Both also returned to Philadelphia to start their careers and families. (Franzen worked in the greeting-card industry for 40 years. Gray went into construction.)

US medic of the 3rd Infantry Division tends to an injured soldier during Sicily invasion (1943) while four generations of a barefoot Sicilian family watch.

Despite both being 99 years old, their memories of the war years were as sharp as ever. Mr. Franzen told a very touching story about when he first landed in Italy. The poverty was so brutal that when he and his buddies saw a family rummaging through trash for food, they emptied their pockets of whatever food and snacks they had to share with the family.

(Left) Paul Franzen’s dog tags and compass. (Right) Shaking hands.

It was an honor for all of us to be in the company of these two men on such a meaningful occasion. We have a special spot in our heart for those who have served our country and are proud of our long tradition at VNA of caring for patients who have answered our country’s call.

Special thanks to our friends at the Masonic Village in Lafayette Hill, where one of the veterans resides, for hosting us.

About VNA’s Veteran’s Initiative
To help provide care and support that reflect the important contributions made by our veterans, the VNA has partnered with We Honor Veterans (WHV), a pioneering campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a WHV partner, VNA has implemented ongoing veteran-centered education for their staff and volunteers to help improve the care they provide to the veterans they proudly serve. Veterans in the care of VNA Hospice receive a special pinning ceremony, thanking and acknowledging their service and duty. For more information on our Veterans Program, call Bob Haley at 610-570-9808 or email him.

About Maureen
Maureen is the Senior VP for Development for the VNA Hospice of Philadelphia; the only nonprofit, freestanding hospice unit in the Philadelphia Metro area. A dedicated team of healthcare pros, including nurses, chaplains, social workers, home health aides, and therapists (including therapy dogs!) — provide home health and hospice care to all, regardless of ability to pay.

VNA Philadelphia
Falls Center Suite 500
3300 Henry Avenue

Maureen is the Senior VP for Development for the VNA Hospice of Philadelphia; the only nonprofit, freestanding hospice unit in the Philadelphia Metro area. A dedicated team of healthcare pros, including nurses, chaplains, social workers, home health aides, and therapists (including therapy dogs!) — provide home health and hospice care to all, regardless of ability to pay.

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