“Nothing keeps a good man down”
“Veterans in hospice care know what it means to sacrifice and to serve. As a volunteer, I’m here to listen if they want to tell their story. Sometimes that can be very meaningful for them, but I think I’m the one who gets the gift of learning through them. It is just an honor,” says Amanda Korth, a Denver Hospice volunteer.
Amanda’s recent project captured the details of Jack Cauch’s life and decorated military service to create a leave-behind memoir for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Amanda recalls, “My father also served during WWII so recording Jack’s stories helped me understand what my father went through a bit more too.”
Jack is charming and at 99-years-old, although he is a bit frail, his indomitable spirit is immediately captivating. As a career military man, his drive and determination made for an adventurous life and legacy. Enlisting in the army when he was only 17, Private Cauch worked as a weather observer (not a forecaster – he is quick to add) for the Army Air Corps. To this day, he blames his poor eyesight on his midnight shifts performing that duty. Jack went on to serve his country faithfully through two wars, climbing his way up the chain of command to retire as a Major.
His tenacity extended to his personal life as well. In 1940 he met the love of his life on a blind date, Flo Ella Turentine. Jack whistled as she walked across the room because she had the longest legs he’d ever seen.
“It took me a year to get back in her favor, and then I spent every moment I could at her house until Flo Ella’s mom told me to marry her, just so I’d get out of her hair,” Jack recalls.
The couple married in 1942, as Jack’s military service was about to hit high gear. While Jack says, “there isn’t much to tell,” his stories about serving in the European Theater during World War II and the Korean War paint a much different picture. As do a purple heart and a bronze star, two of several military honors that sit in an acrylic case next to his hat, silently displaying a more accurate picture of his bravery, sacrifice and service. Jack has his four medals tattooed on his back, he says, “Just in case I need proof of my character.”
During World War II, Jack transferred to the motor pool and became a truck master. He transported aircraft parts and bombs from Liverpool throughout all of England. It was often necessary to drive at night in blackout conditions so as not to be seen by the German “Buzzbombers.”
Jack got caught in France during the Battle of the Bulge while driving a convoy from England to Belgium. He describes the French Resistance as being “all over them.” The post commander promoted him from private to first sergeant, but Jack had his eyes set on officer training school. Even though he was “blown off” by command several times, he persisted and in his last year of eligibility – at 27 years old and the oldest in cadet school – he graduated as a second lieutenant.
During the Korean War, Jack spent 14 months situated between North and South Korea, in Chinchon. He earned his purple heart in 1953 from mortar shell shrapnel that entered through one cheek and out the other. He credits daily flossing for keeping all of his teeth despite this injury.
With humor, grace and a light in his eyes, Jack says that he wants to live to 114, and after meeting him, it is easy to believe that may happen. He has survived cancer, pneumonia and brain surgery. He has had to bear the loss of his wife after 54 years of marriage, and the death of one of his sons in 2016.
Still, he says, “Nothing will keep a good man down, and no one can match me.”
We honor veterans
As one of the first in our region to earn a Level 4 status in the “We Honor Veterans” campaign, The Denver Hospice demonstrates our highest regard for all our military veterans. This joint program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Veterans Administration ensures that each veteran of our country is not only appreciated, but he or she has access to the highest quality end-of-life care. Staff receives special training in the sensitive issues that can arise in relation to a veteran’s experience of service.
The opportunity to work with Veterans exemplifies The Denver Hospice’s highest ideal of creating patient-centered care that addresses all aspects of one’s life from physical pain reduction to offering emotional and spiritual support with loving comfort and care. Nearly one-third of all Denver Hospice patients, more than 940, are honored military veterans from all branches of service and all decades since World War II.