Fargo, North Dakota, is nowhere near the sea. But in a way, the sea came to Fargo this July when the United States Navy chose the city, and Sanford Health, as a host for Navy Week festivities.
“We have over 33,000 veterans, active duty, and guard and reserve members that we’ve treated here in this area,” said Paul Weckman, head of Military and Veterans Affairs at Sanford Health. “Within the Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Midwest region, we just have a lot of patriotic men and women that actually want to serve.”
An honored guest during Navy Week
That service may have been what drew the Navy as a whole. But hometown pride seems to have factored into one other aspect of Navy Week.
Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch visited with patients and staff at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. And Munsch said he requested to be a senior host for the event due to his roots in Oakes, North Dakota. He also said visiting with veterans at Sanford during Navy Week was not just his duty, but his privilege.
“They gave a lot for the nation, and sometimes that doesn’t always get remembered. Many of them are incredibly modest about what they participated in. And sometimes it takes another service member to help pull that story out of them,” Munsch said.
“It’s unbelievable. The expression, the emotion, the tears that come out. It’s all in gratitude because they are recognized, but then to have an admiral show up, you know, that’s the cherry on top,” said Weckman.
Serving our service members
Sanford Health employs nearly 700 veterans. And in 2020, it was named the highest-ranked nonprofit group in the country by the Military Times for employers of veterans. Munsch said Sanford’s commitment to former service members does not go unnoticed.
“It’s really remarkable what you’ve done here at Sanford, to help make that transition for people out of the service. Sometimes that can be a little bit bumpy, and to have somebody very welcoming on the other side, who understands it all, is really important. Plus they get into such a well-run organization. We hope that all our service members would have that opportunity.”
Overall, Sanford continues to support members of every branch of the military not just through employment and medical care, but through volunteer and employee resource groups as well.
Pride and honor
A Navy string quartet entertained patients, visitors and employees in the lobby of Sanford Medical Center Fargo, and sailors from the U.S.S. North Dakota visited veteran patients and patients at Sanford Children’s.
While Navy Week included nearly 75 outreach events across the Fargo-Moorhead area, those hosted by Sanford Health brought smiles and tears, and an enormous feeling of pride from Sanford patients and staff alike.
“You could see that in the people we visited,” said Munsch. “It meant a huge amount to them. And for some of them, tears came out, like they hadn’t been recognized like that before.”
In partnering with the Navy, and every branch of the military, Sanford Health hopes to continue recognizing their patients and employees for their service.
- Sanford Health earns Defense Department Freedom Award
- Volunteers honor veterans with personal hospital visits
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