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Excela Health hospice program seeks a few good men and women

Gary Shogan poses with framed medals and other artifacts of the Korean War service of his late father, Joe Shogan, along with tokens of appreciation given to him while under the care of the Excela Health Hospice Program.

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Veterans helping veterans

In the first four months of this year, Excela Health Hospice has cared for 45 veterans.

Having served in World War II, Vietnam and Korea, they represent the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Merchant Marines and the National Guard. The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau reports there are more than 12.4 million veterans ages 65 or older in the United States.

Excela is looking to enlist men and women who share this military heritage to serve as volunteers specifically for veterans receiving care. “We are very pleased with the response we have received from our Veteran Program thus far and we hope to recruit more veteran volunteers so we can expand our veteran services even more in the future,” said James Joyce, Excela Health Hospice manager.

For more information, contact Joan Roth, volunteer services coordinator, 724-689-1653.

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Korean War veteran Joseph Shogan was proud to have served his country.

On March 3, 2013, he was laid to rest.

Joe Shogan didn't speak a lot about the war, but he always conveyed to his family that his fellow servicemen were always in his heart.

He was the kind of guy who always flew an American flag.

“He instilled a sense of patriotism in all his kids and now every one of us flies a flag,” said his son, Gary Shogan.

Born in March 19, 1929, in Turtle Creek, Joe Shogan managed a large chain grocery store until he opened his own grocery store in Pleasant Unity. Years later, he sold the store and delivered bread until he retired.

But he was a gardener at heart. When he moved near Stahlstown, he had flower gardens and a large vegetable garden on his 20 acres.

“It was a gentleman's farm. We had chickens, horses, cows and ducks. He was raised on a farm, his grandfather had a farm and I think that's why we moved up here, so he could have a little farm,” Gary Shogan said.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army in the 1950s, Joe Shogan served as a sergeant in the Korean War. He worked in the Army Security Agency, deciphering codes during the war. Returning home, he helped found Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Donegal and one in Normalville.

In his later years, Joe Shogan made it his mission to honor fellow veterans by visiting them in nearby nursing facilities. He continued to visit them until he became ill.

In 2012, Joe Shogan was admitted to Excela Health Hospice.

On Veterans Day, the Excela Health Hospice Simple Gifts Singers visited Joe Shogan and other veterans to sing military songs.

Gary Shogan remembers being home the day they came to visit his father. “They called the day before, and said they were coming. Dad became very excited, telling me, ‘They are coming to sing patriotic songs for me!'

“When they came to sing, it meant a lot to him. You could see it in his eyes. For me, to be able to be there and see how it made his day and how his eyes lit up — it meant a lot to me and my family and it really helped me understand a lot more. He sang along with them. He was so happy. A few of the songs, you could see, brought tears to his eyes, especially the U.S. Army anthem, ‘The Caissons go Rolling Along.' He sang that with them. I think that really meant the most to him.”

Shogan recalled that his father's last birthday was blessed by a red, white and blue cake from Excela Health Hospice and a later visit from his grandchildren. It was among other special touches the hospice program gave the veteran.

“He loved the nurses and the aide — he talked about them all the time. He loved them. It was a good experience for all of us ...,” his son said.

And now it has come full circle.

Gary Shogan said he looks forward to his retirement as a time to volunteer, spending time with veterans.

“My dad instilled in us how important the vets are. They were always at the top of his list and he always tried to help them. I hope to do the same,” he said.

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