MACDILL AFB — One nonprofit has gone above and beyond to help dying military retirees make one last trip to their favorite place before they die — the base commissary.
Serving Love for Our Warriors, or SLOW, has raised over $12,000 in coupons and gathered over 300 volunteers to help retirees get back to the Commissaries where they feel most at home.
“George was about to go, we could tell,” said Candy Reynolds of her grandfather, Korean War veteran Maj. George Campbell (Ret.) “But he was hanging on to something. When the SLOW volunteers showed up and he could yell at the teenager bagging his groceries to move faster without leaving a tip, he could finally say goodbye. It meant so much to my family. Thanks, SLOW.”
Margaret Reed, SLOW’s executive director, has found that although we live in a society that often ignores the elderly and has difficulty understanding death, SLOW’s clients find solace in being surrounded by so many other retirees going through the same phase of life in the commissary.
“I had one client who had become a complete shut-in,” said Reed. “But when we offered to let him drive 4 miles per hour in the commissary parking lot, he really came alive. As soon as it looked like he was going to lose the last handicapped spot to a Gulf War Veteran, we saw the kind of fighter no one had seen since Chosin come back out.”
SLOW volunteers can assist clients with a wide array of their favorite tasks, ranging from blocking the aisles with carts, chatting with cashiers too long and making inappropriate remarks about their grandchildren, or writing strongly worded letters to the deli managers about the quality of liverwurst.
“Ethel had been in memory care for years,” said Kelsey Raintree, a SLOW volunteer. “When she started calling the commissary tips bagger Mama-San I really thought we were going to have a scandal on our hands. But it turns out that they served together at Camp Humphries. It was really touching.”
In the future, SLOW hopes to lobby congress to allow military retirees to be buried in the Commissary parking lot.