Joe Juharos wears many hats! Joe is the Veteran’s Service Officer for American Legion Post 86 in Overgaard. He also works with Hospice Compassus in Lakeside and Payson, one of the largest hospice providers in the country. He is a retired police officer of 23 years from Glendale, Arizona, and a Marine veteran. It was my pleasure meeting with Joe today to talk about the many services he is committed to for the veterans of our community including Lakeside and Payson.
He helps not only veterans but offers his help to many others as well. He has even volunteered to wash dogs at shelters in Winslow and Show Low because he could see were understaffed. This became apparent when he adopted one of his dogs he thought was brown and after a bath discovered it was white! He has two beautiful rescue dogs, one of which has its own hospice ID card and serves as a service dog accompanying Joe on visits to veterans in hospice care. He volunteers at his church, Overgaard Baptist, assisting with ushering, driving the van to pick up kids and tending to the grounds when needed. He carried the American flag in the 4th of July parade this year and takes pride that he still fits in his uniform.
Joe is amazed at how all his volunteering sources combined manage to intertwine and, he is able to reconnect people, especially veterans who knew one another long ago. Recently he reconnected two veterans who had not seen each other in over 40 years. He is always ready to help. I think his middle name should be “Compassion”. Joe is a Vietnam veteran and has his own war-related issues, so helping others seems to be the best coping skill for him personally.
“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
Most importantly we want to bring awareness of the help Joe offers to veterans here on the mountain. Many veterans and their caregivers are not aware of the help Joe can provide for them. When it comes to the VA, Joe will figure out ways through channels they might not be aware of or capable of facilitating. In his words he so positively says, “I will find a way to figure it out through the jungle of red tape.” We often hear of sad stories involving veterans needing immediate help only to slip through the cracks. He tells me that elderly veterans have four times the national suicide rate in Arizona. Joe is up for the challenge and lights up when he tells some of his stories of getting problems channeled to the right person. Joe says it is such a maze and is so complicated that even the Veterans Administration case workers have trouble being able to serve their veterans.
He is intent on being available to honor terminal veterans who are under hospice care when that time comes. The ceremony is called “The Salute”. It is a “Celebration Ceremony” that involves music as well as the spiritual part of the ceremony. Music is selected that fits with the branch of service the patient served in and Joe likes to read from Psalms Chapter 34. He is known for getting the patient to participate in sharing some of his own stories from the branch he served in. The family always appreciates this, and it makes the ceremony more personal. The veterans involved in the ‘Salute’ are volunteers Joe has recruited from all branches of service. You can be assured that Joe makes sure each veteran is honored properly; no important details go unattended.
In a recent article written in “Everyday Compassion”, published by Compassus, Chris Burns says it well, “Joe is the spirit of this work and we couldn’t do this without him. For Joe, his personal mantra is simple yet profound in encapsulating his purpose in life: “Let me keep being of service until the day I die.”