Rainbow Hospice Veteran Receives “Perfect Party”
Craig Busshardt would be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t consider himself a hero. Craig, like many veterans out there, usually doesn’t want to call attention to himself or be recognized for his military accomplishments.
That’s why Rainbow Hospice Care social worker Emily Marx was pleasantly surprised when Craig agreed to be honored for his time in the Navy. It didn’t take much convincing from her and Craig even thought that the perfect opportunity to do it would be during his birthday party.
Usually, Rainbow honors its veteran patients in person and has either a nurse or social worker perform the pinning ceremony. And, in recent years, Rainbow’s veteran volunteers have also been invited to take part in the pinning.
But now, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing everyone’s normal way of life, Rainbow Hospice Care has had to get more creative.
“I normally prefer to perform veteran pinning ceremonies myself,” said Marx. “In planning for Craig’s pinning, at one point I told him we wouldn’t be able to do the pinning at his birthday party due to timing and COVID-19 complications. I heard the disappointment in his voice and I knew I had to make it happen.”
Emily asked several staff members if they could record videos to thank Craig for his service.
She then reached out to one of Craig’s sisters and on the day of the party, with over 70 family members in attendance, Craig’s youngest brother, Charlie, presented him with two different veteran pins – one for being an honored veteran and another for being a Vietnam veteran – along with a certificate. Craig also received a fleece tie blanket that is put together by several of Rainbow’s volunteers and an angel pin for his wife, Pat.
“The biggest thing that made me feel good was that Pat was included,” said Busshardt.
Rainbow offers the angel pins to loved ones who are very special to a patient and each pin is decorated with red, white, and blue patriotic colors.
For the party, Craig’s niece made an aircraft carrier out of cupcakes like the one Craig was stationed on during his service, along with cookies that looked like airplanes. To top it off, she also had cupcakes with little yellow anchors and the number of his ship.
“You surprised me,” Busshardt said. “I can hold back pretty well. But when I looked up and looked around the room, then I saw my sisters, then I couldn’t hold back anymore. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Right out of high school at age 18, Craig enlisted in the Navy with other friends from his class.
“There were eight of us and we all went down to Milwaukee to get our physicals at the same time,” said Busshardt. “Half were Marines, half were Navy. You should have seen the party we had before we left.”
Craig, one of nine children, spent four years in the Navy during Vietnam, from 1969 to 1973 as an Aviation Electrician. His tour of duty also included stops in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Japan. He has memories and stories that will make you laugh, cry, and your heart race.
“I only got in trouble on a few occasions,” Busshardt joked. “I didn’t let people catch me working too much.”
After Craig was honorably discharged he came back to Watertown and went on to raise four boys and step-daughters with Pat. He worked numerous jobs over the years, including operating a vending business with his wife.
For Craig, having his family involved and having his brother, who is a veteran as well, perform the pinning ceremony, ended up being the icing on the cake.
“For a guy that doesn’t like to be the center of attention, this is probably the best way to do it, because it was family presenting,” Busshardt said.
“For this pinning I involved family members more than ever before,” Marx said. “It ended up being a surprise for Craig which was so rewarding. It is such an honor to serve the veterans in our community. I love having opportunities to make them feel special and appreciated especially when they don’t normally want to accept the recognition. I was so pleased Craig allowed this opportunity.”
Craig offered some advice to fellow veterans who may be hesitant about being honored.
“Just do it,” Busshardt said. “Now that’s it all over with, it was awesome. To have that many supporters, I just don’t have words for it. It was just plain awesome. That’s what you could call the perfect party.”
Rainbow Hospice Care is a proud hospice partner of We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Rainbow is currently a level 3 We Honor Veterans partner. There are now five levels an organization can achieve. Each level guides you through specific activities using practical resources to progressively increase your ability to serve veterans.
Rainbow Hospice Care is working towards being a level 4 partner to increase access and improve the quality of care for veterans in our community. Rainbow has a newly formed Veterans Committee that is excited to honor its veterans and continue with the We Honor Veterans program.