How Grayslake Army veteran comforts fellow vets in their final hours

  • Nicholas G. Konz of Grayslake is the president of the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission. He also spends time with dying veterans in the hospice program at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago.

      Nicholas G. Konz of Grayslake is the president of the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission. He also spends time with dying veterans in the hospice program at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/29/2020 4:35 PM

Nicholas Konz Jr. has been helping veterans since his U.S. Army service ended in 1966.

Konz, a Grayslake resident who was stationed in West Germany for about three years, started volunteer work as a member of a Lake County American Legion post.

 

Early on, he encountered a patient at what was then the Downey Veteran Administration Hospital in North Chicago who had been severely wounded in Vietnam.

The young man had lost all four limbs, Konz recalled, and had bandages over his eyes.

"I was fortunate enough to come home in one piece. I didn't have to serve in combat," Konz said. "I've been active ever since, volunteering and sending veterans in the right direction."

Konz, 73, spends time with dying veterans in the hospice program at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago as part of a program called No Veteran Dies Alone. Konz talks with them, makes sure they're comfortable and does his best to reassure them in their last moments.

"(I say) you're not alone," said Konz, a retired Jewel meat cutter. "Don't be afraid. Don't be scared."

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Michael Peck, the former superintendent of the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, called Konz's ministrations "God's work."

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider praised Konz's efforts, too.

"Through the No Veteran Dies Alone program, Nick has personally ensured that the veterans in our community, even in their final moments, have the support and care they so deserve," said Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat.

Konz also is president of the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, a group that offers services and resources to veterans and their families, including assistance with rental and mortgage payments. It helps some veterans pay utility bills, transports others to and from medical appointments, offers employment assistance and handles other tasks.

But Konz's volunteering resume doesn't end there.

He also started a group for veterans and their spouses living in his Saddlebrook Farms neighborhood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Additionally, Konz performs honor guard duties at veterans' funerals through Mundelein's American Legion post. It's an important tradition, he said.

"It's a final send off and a thank you," he said. "And (it) lets the family know we appreciated their service."

• Do you know of veterans helping other veterans, doing good things for their community or who have an interesting story to tell? Share your story at veterans@dailyherald.com.

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