JEROME — Auttis Mullins’ 93-year-old body is giving out.
“I could go at any time,” Mullins told visitors in his room at Desano Assisted Living in Jerome.
Mullins and 11 other veterans are clients of Hospice Visions’ Veteran-to-Veteran program.
Mullins served during World War II; Hospice Visions volunteer Bob Rynbrand served during the Vietnam war. Both served in the U.S. Navy.
Rynbrand’s twice-weekly visits bring Mullins a sense of peace at the end of his life.
“We have a lot of fun,” Rynbrand said. “There’s lots of bantering.”
Veterans have a “secret language” that civilians don’t understand, Rybrand said.
Despite the shared experience, war talk doesn’t necessarily dominate their time together. Much of their conversation is about fishing. And chasing women.
Mullins remembers driving to a nearby town during basic training in Florida.
“I’d drive up empty, then come back with a pile of girls,” he said.
Rynbrand has similar memories.
“Our stories run parallel,” Rynbrand said. “There’s a commonality, but 20 years apart.”
Mullins vividly remembers taking his wife to see war memorials in Pearl Harbor.
“It’s pretty sobering over there,” he said,
Mullins trained as a 50-caliber machine gunner on a B-25. The war ended just before he was scheduled to ship out.
Of those who fought in WWII, an estimated 362 veterans die every day. It’s an honor to spend time with fellow veterans at the end of their lives, Rynbrand said. In the two years that he has volunteered in the program, he’s inevitably seen plenty pass away.
No matter how many days they have left, his visits are a comfort to the veterans.
“Many haven’t talked about their service in decades,” Rynbrand said. “It’s sad, but it’s hospice. You go into being a volunteer knowing that it’s the end for these vets.”