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VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — Donning a World War II veteran cap and wearing a suit, 94-year-old Louis Hoelle was filled with emotion Monday during a ceremony honoring his service in the U.S. Navy.
Wiping tears, Hoelle sang along to the national anthem, asking his daughter to remove his cap, and then accepted the certificate of recognition and flag presented to him by the Navy.
Through Unity Hospice's Hospice for Heroes patient program, Hoelle, surrounded by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, was honored by the U.S. Navy color guard at Avalon Springs Health campus in Valparaiso.
Hoelle is a resident and hospice patient who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
"Because of his dementia, we couldn't do the Honor Flight, so when we heard about this program we knew this would be special," said Hoelle's granddaughter Lori Hogan, of Valparaiso. "We did have to convince him this morning that this was an honor and that the Navy was not taking him back into war."
Red, white and blue banners and flags decorated Avalon's large dining room and a cake was ordered to celebrate the occasion.
"I didn't know we were going to have a party. Beer for everybody," Hoelle told The Times (http://bit.ly/1zGFabR ). "Wow, they gave me a flag and everything."
Sailors from Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago presented the colors and spoke of Hoelle's service.
Hoelle served in the Navy for three years during World War II, quickly becoming a first class petty officer as a machinist mate. To advance to such rank nowadays would take six-to-10 years.
Hoelle's daughter, Denise Hoelle, said her father often talks about his service.
"I kept the boiler going on the ship," Hoelle said. "There was no fighting for me."
A letter from the Navy was presented to Hoelle that expressed his appreciation for Hoelle's service and dedication.
Hoelle could not believe that his family and residents were there to honor his service.
"I'm so emotional," he said. "This is all for me?"
Hogan said the event was more than they had hoped for.
"This was very emotional for him and this was the nicest event I have ever seen," she said.
Hoelle lived in the southwest suburbs of Chicago for most of his life but now resides in Valparaiso, along with his grandchildren and their families.
Five of Hoelle's six children, Lana Pederson, Denise, Martine, Louis and Brian Hoelle, were in attendance.
"He has always been so proud of the military and this special honor is wonderful for him," Denise Hoelle said. "This presentation was so much more than I expected. Very moving for all of us."
Jeanne Berkshire, community relations representative for Unity Hospice said this program honors the veterans.
"This is the best quality of life we can give them," she said.
Four additional Avalon residents -- Frank Martinovich, Ron Johnson, Kenneth Nicholas and Robert Sheets -- also were honored for their military service.
Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com
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