Death used to bother Don Ottomeyer. As a young officer in the U.S. Army during the 1970s, he saw too much of it. Now, more than 30 years after he left the military, he seeks out the dying.
For the past 25 years, Ottomeyer has volunteered in hospice centers in Michigan (where he has lived in Ann Arbor since 2007), North Carolina and Idaho. Every week he encounters the sick and the dying, all of them military veterans.
“I don’t think any veteran should die alone,” he said.
By his count, he has stood watch as more than 100 vets took their final steps in life. Each year, his load increases.
“I used to see six or seven a year,” he said. “So far this year I’ve had 10.”
Nationwide, veterans of World War II are dying at a high rate — over 600 per day, according to a reportby the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ottomeyer said he’s now starting to see Vietnam-era vets in hospice.
Photo: Courtesy Don Ottomeyer