As a longtime volunteer at Franciscan Health Dyer, Tom Zaczkiewicz is used to taking care of others. But for a single fall day, he enjoyed being the one who was cared for during an Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
Zaczkiewicz, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Army from 1969 to 1971, flew with a group of 118 veterans from Chicago Midway International Airport on the early morning of Oct. 27. The group was greeted by a crowd, and Zaczkiewicz was introduced to his “guardian” for the day, Beth, who assisted him during his tour.
“It made you feel special. And what made it really special was I had a guardian,” he said, noting that they shared a love for Notre Dame and have kept in touch since his trip.
The group visited the Marine Corps Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, where they saw a performance by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. They then walked to the Vietnam Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. The group’s last stop in their whirlwind day was the National Air and Space Museum.
On the flight back to Chicago, there was one more surprise: a mail call where each veteran received a manila envelope with heartfelt cards and letters from their families, friends and schoolchildren. After landing at Midway, the veterans received another greeting from active-duty military, which gave him goosebumps. “I’m kind of an emotional person. The next day when I went on Facebook and watched the video, I’m sitting there on my laptop and the tears were just coming down,” he said.
Upon his arrival at Midway, active Navy personnel, other veterans and hundreds of others greeted the Honor Flight passengers. “I was overwhelmed with all the people there to greet us. That was a big highlight to end the day,” Zaczkiewicz said.
The next day, was also a return to his volunteer work, picking up food in Merrillville for the food pantry, then on Friday, it was back to his volunteer work at Franciscan Health Dyer. Since retiring from the Ford Assembly Plant, Zaczkiewicz has been involved with VFW Post 717 in St. John, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Griffith and their CEMP food pantry and making deliveries for Meals on Wheels.
In his five years of volunteering at Franciscan Health Dyer, Zaczkiewicz has 1,200 hours of service and currently spends his Fridays as an errand runner and information desk volunteer. “I just enjoy it and enjoy the people,” he said. “When I’m discharging a patient, I let them talk first, and I just love working with the little children.”
“We are proud to have Tom as a volunteer at Franciscan Health Dyer. He selflessly served our country and now is serving those in need at the Dyer Franciscan campus,” said Volunteer Services Manager Kathy Rudaski.
To learn more about the volunteer opportunities currently available at Franciscan Health, go online at FranciscanHealth.org/community/volunteer or call one of the volunteer offices: Franciscan Health Dyer – (219) 864-2037; Franciscan Health Munster/Hammond – (219) 922-5834; Franciscan Health Crown Point – (219) 757-6347; Franciscan Health Michigan City – (219) 877-1421.