Nursing Honor Guard Commemorates Fallen Caregivers
Writer / Julie Yates
The Nursing Honor Guard (NHG) Serving North Central Indiana commemorates nurses during their funeral or memorial services. Families find comfort as representatives from the organization pay tribute to their loved one who followed a calling to take care of others. NHG groups are found nationwide, with about 17 active groups located in Indiana.
“I first found out about NHG in 2014 when I got a call from Jill Jeffries, community outreach coordinator for Ellers Mortuary,” says Peggy Faulkner, BSN, RN, coordinator for the Nursing Honor Guard Serving North Central Indiana. “She asked if I might be interested in helping develop a Nursing Honor Guard program in Howard County. Jill explained that NHG is a way to pay tribute to a fallen comrade from our nursing profession. It was similar in some ways to a military honor guard. She had also spoken to my former boss, Mel Greene, who at that time was the CNO of Community Howard Regional Health.”
At the time when Faulkner received that initial call, she was unable to devote the time needed to start the organization in the Kokomo area. She had retired in 2012 to take care of her parents, who were in failing health. Her father, a World War II veteran, had just been buried with full military honors. Ten months prior, her mother, who had been a nurse for 40 years, had also passed on.
“I couldn’t help but think how much mother would have loved the concept of the NHG,” she says. “Then, just three months later, one of our dear Community Howard nurses was involved in a very tragic automobile accident while she was driving to work. The next day she died from her injuries. The Anderson NHG was called and they came to Tipton to pay homage to Lora’s dedication to nursing. I and the nurses there experienced the impact that the Nursing Honor Guard service had on Lora’s family and friends, and on us.”
By February of 2015, Faulkner had organized the North Central chapter. Today there are around 113 members, with 20 on the active contact list who participate in funeral services. The other members are on the electronic contact list, and are notified when a nurse passes on and asked to pray for the family.
Typically the funeral-home staff handling arrangements is the liaison between the family and the NHG, offering the family of a nurse this final tribute to their loved one. The NHG members bring a display table with a Nightingale lamp, a white Bible and a nurse’s cap to the visitation and service, and stand vigil at the casket. During the funeral they read the Nightingale Pledge, call a final roll call, present a Nightingale lamp to the family and read the Nurse’s Prayer.
“We have participated in over 150 services and each one is special,” Faulkner says. “One was held in a backyard and involved a balloon release. At another, the family’s dog befriended me and stayed by my side.”
The North Central Indiana NHG has traveled to other places in Indiana to start the organization’s presence there. They have been to Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Marion and Muncie. Out-of-state locations have also benefitted from the chapter’s help.
Locally, the NHG has partnered with Community Howard Regional Health Foundation. The NHG meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 2 p.m. at Cross America, Inc. in Kokomo. An orientation for new members will be held at the meeting on September 6.
“Nursing Honor Guard tributes are a way to give back to a family of a nurse,” Faulkner says. “It’s a calling to be a nurse. When you have a nurse in the family, everyone is involved. Holidays are always impacted. When we get a call, we have the privilege of praying for the family, giving them a candlestick lamp and honoring a fallen nurse.”
Contributions to cover the cost of keepsakes given to families, plus cards and brochures, can be sent to the NHG in care of the Community Howard Regional Health Foundation, 3548 South Lafountain Street, Kokomo, Indiana 46902.
To contact the Nursing Honor Guard Serving North Central Indiana, call 765-453-1634 and leave a message.