BJC team member’s mission and ministry honors veterans
Dossie Randle knows the power of gratitude.
He feels it whenever someone sees him in the baseball cap that identifies him as a U.S. Air Force veteran and thanks him for his service. “Whether it’s a young person or older person, every time, I feel honored,” he says.
Randle believes all veterans should be thanked for serving their country, and he’s made it an integral part of his job to do just that.
Randle, BJC Home Care and Hospice chaplain and case manager, coordinates the We Honor Veterans program. The program’s goal is to recognize and honor BJC home care, palliative care or hospice patients who have served in the military.
Letting these patients know that their service has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated is simply another way BJC cares for patients, Randle says.
“We want them all to feel honored,” he says.
The program began about 10 years ago, presenting certificates of appreciation to veterans in hospice care. Randle, who joined BJC as a chaplain five years ago, took over the program and expanded it.
Now, when Randle is notified that there is a home care, palliative care or hospice patient who is a veteran, he prepares the certificate of appreciation and a letter of tribute.
The certificate states, “We pay special tribute to you for your military service to America and for advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all.”
The accompanying letter, signed by hospice director Teresa Holstein, reads, “We present this certificate to you with our deepest gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for your dedication in protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy each day. Your service will never be forgotten.”
In coordination with the patient’s family, Randle travels to meet the patient wherever the patient is being cared for — whether their home, hospital, nursing home or BJC Hospice’s Evelyn’s House — to present the certificate and letter, a BJC Veterans Day tribute coin or veteran blanket made by volunteers (when available) and a service lapel pin. He offers the lapel pin gift with a salute of his own expression of gratitude to the veteran.
The patients often thank him for the acknowledgement, sometimes with tears in their eyes. He remembers one especially touching presentation when the patient, who was in a wheelchair, told him, “I don’t want to sit down to return your salute,” and then struggled to their feet.
Randle especially likes when family members can witness the presentation. “They get to see their loved one honored and realize that their service to their country is valued,” he says.
Military to Ministry
Randle’s own career gives him a special affinity for the veterans he works with. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1974, starting as a Ground Radio Operator talking with crews of B-52 bombers and KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft.
He rose to the rank of senior master sergeant, serving as a radio frequency manager for air bases around the U.S. and world, including Central and South America and in Germany during the Gulf War.
While still in the service, Randle was first called to the ministry in 1998.
After his retirement from the Air Force in 2000, he was hired by Boeing in IT and eventually transferred to St. Louis in 2004. By that time, he had earned his master’s degree in pastoral care and started on his doctorate. He had also worked with inmates, ex-offenders and the homeless, as well as performing community outreach in nursing homes.
He joined BJC in 2017, first working PRN with BJC Home Care and Hospice. He now works full time as a chaplain and case manager for BJC Hospice and is a PRN chaplain for Progress West and Barnes-Jewish St. Peters hospitals.
“I’m kind of a workaholic,” he admits, “but I enjoy what I do. It’s not really work.”
One of the most personally gratifying things about Randle’s job is the opportunity to talk to veterans about their military careers.
“It’s amazing the stories I’ve heard. It opens a door for me to learn about the past,” he says.
Among the most memorable are those told by World War II veterans. Those who served during this era tended to not talk about their experiences and often appreciate the opportunity to share stories with a fellow veteran, he says. “These people have lived history. That’s what makes it so special.”
Being able to honor those who served during the Vietnam conflict gives Randle a special sense of pride.
“I think it’s especially important for them, because they were the ‘thankless’ veterans,” he says. “With what was going on in the country at the time, there was not the gratitude for their service.”
But no matter when they served, each of the hundreds of veterans he has visited — ranging in age from 35 to 103 — have earned the recognition they receive, Randle says.
“When you look at the level of courage and heart and compassion they show in putting themselves in harm’s way for their country, they truly deserve the honor.”