Our military personnel voluntarily act as the protectors of our nations, standing on the front lines while keeping us safe behind them.
The Knights of Columbus (KofC) acknowledges this unselfish act of patriotism by promoting the “Serving Those Who Served” program. The philosophy behind “Serving Those Who Served” is simple: the men and women of the Armed Forces did not let the Nation down on the battlefield, and the KofC will not let these veterans down now.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) Program is the vehicle that the KofC uses in the “Serving Those Who Served” program. Annually, the KofC honors one or more of its members for the service they provide through the VAVS. For 2013, Robert D. Ukena of West Des Moines, a volunteer at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System, has been named the 2013 KofC VAVS Co-Male Volunteer of the Year. Sharing the honor with Ukena is Ronald W. Katko of Idaho.
Ukena has distinguished himself as a selfless, dedicated KofC Regularly Scheduled Volunteer with over 250 hours of service in 2013 to terminally ill veterans through the “No Veteran Left Behind” program. Since its inception in 2011, and after receipt of training in palliative care, Ukena has participated as a volunteer in the hospice/palliative care ward and has accumulated over 500 hours in this critical, very emotional program. In this service, he spends seven hours each Wednesday, and is on call on a continuous basis, to sit with the terminally ill and their relatives. He provides companionship when relatives are unavailable; feeds these dying patients when needed; and assists the nursing staff in settling down patients who become a problem for the nurses. In addition, Ukena volunteers in the Community Living Center at VA Central Iowa Health Care System and assists with the twice a year patient memorial services. With regards to the memorial services, Laura Kendrick Voluntary Service Specialist at VA Central Iowa Health Care System shared that Ukena, a retired Army non-commissioned officer, “always knows how to welcome the families and friends who are present and sits with families representing the hospital volunteer team.”
Besides his work at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System, Ukena is also the Faithful Navigator for the KofC James G. Jordan Assembly 3031 in West Des Moines and serves as the Youth Director for the Iowa KofC coordinating and implementing activities such as the Soccer Challenge, Free Throw Championship, Substance Abuse Awareness Poster Contest, Essay Contest, and Spelling Bee throughout the state.