Philip Area Health Foundation honors those that honor


Pictured are Honor Guard Members (L-R) Marcy Ramsey, Marilyn Millage, LeeAnn
Knutson, Carmen Fees, Kathy Gittings, Heather Solon, founder, and Vonda Hamill, PAHF director.

by Vonda Hamill, PAHF director

Nurses make up the backbone of healthcare in the United States, delivering almost 80% of the hands-on care a patient will receive. Consistently ranked as the most trusted profession in America, they are the piston of the healthcare engine.

A good nurse will have strong tendencies for empathy and compassion, communicate easily and demonstrate high integrity and advocacy skills. Many devote an entire lifetime to the care of patients and their families. They are integral components of their communities and healthcare facilities. Their identity is that of a problem-solver, nurturer, and a no-nonsense type of personality that sees the work to do and gets it done. So, when a nurse’s final rest comes, it is only fitting that their colleagues desire to send them home with a heartfelt tribute of a life well-lived, and an appreciation of the skills and expertise they shared while they were a nurse.

Enter the West River Nurses Honor Guard (WRNHG), a local chapter of the National Nurse Honor Guard Coalition, one of 150 in the nation. The WRNHG was the brainchild of Heather Solon, a registered nurse from Kadoka. The honor guard is a nonprofit volunteer group that travels to the funeral services of fellow nurses to celebrate their life and professional career. The guard travels the entire west river region to participate in touching ceremonies honoring the nurse that has passed, and to lend comfort to the families at a time of loss.

Likened to a military salute, the Nurse Honor Guard stands guard over the casket or urn, places a white rose there, and lights a nursing lamp that will burn during the service. The nurse’s name is called with the ringing of a triangle three times. When the nurse does not respond, they are officially released from their nursing duties. The guard will then escort the casket or urn to its final place of rest.

To help assist with expenses incurred while providing this service, the Philip Area Health Foundation has committed $1,000 to the West River Nurses Honor Guard. “We are happy to help this group of volunteers who give of their own time and expense to carry out the excellent work of honoring fellow nurses.” If you would like to see more of what the guard is doing or to request a tribute for a nurse you know and love, contact Heather Solon at westrivrnrsehnrgrd@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page at West River Nurse Honor Guard South Dakota.