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Jefferson Awards: Westfield vet honors Hoosiers in their final moments so no one dies alone

Michael Judge honored with the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good
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Posted at 5:00 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 17:00:20-04

The Jefferson Awards is now Multiplying Good, and we could use a little good in our lives. While there is a new name, the essence of the service doesn't change. WRTV is still recognizing unsung heroes through the "Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good." Nominate someone you know who is making a difference for a Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.

WESTFIELD — No one should have to die alone. That is the mission of a retired U.S. Marine master sergeant who dedicates his free time to sit beside Hoosiers who are in their final hours.

On any given day, you can find Michael Judge taking a jog in Westfield. It is at the Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial for Enduring on North Union Street where he stops to take a breath and pay his respects.

Judge is fully aware of the sacrifice these men and women made.

"This nation will always owe them a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to fully repay," Judge said. "Even if they only served for a couple years or a year. They volunteered to do something that most folks don't."

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Michael Judge pays his respects at the Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial for Enduring, which bears 143 crosses, each honoring a service member from Indiana who has died since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

While Judge answered the call to serve his country for more than two decades of his life, he continues the call to serve, now during the final moments of people's lives.

Judge started volunteering with Heartland Hospice in Marion County, spending his overnight hours in nursing homes and hospitals.

"When they were anxious, I would hold their hand," Judge said. "Or you know, I would sing them a hymn every once in a while, or when they were dry I would put some water around their mouth for them to help that a little bit."

Judge's time is a gift to not only the ones he is with in the moment but to their loved ones as well, giving them peace of mind to step away knowing that someone is still there.

"It's a ministry of presence," Judge said. "Just showing up and being involved and you don't even have to have a whole lot of skill, just being present is such a gift to folks. Being invested in people when they are at their weakest, or their lowest moment. But there is a certain honor being able to walk along somebody when they are in their, a season of grief or hardship and it is a gift to be able to step into their lives."

Three years ago, Judge focused on honoring veterans in these moments, providing honor ceremonies for them while in hospice.

"It was their final Veterans Day because most of them were not going to make it to November," Judge said. "So I said, let’s do that."

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Michael Judge pays his respects at the Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial for Enduring, which bears 143 crosses, each honoring a service member from Indiana who has died since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

His work makes a difference during a time when no one should be alone. For that, WRTV honors Judge with the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.

"I would always come to position of attention and said I want to provide you one last military honor and I would rare them a salute," Judge said. "And that is where the tears would come, usually for the veteran and myself. Because there is just something about that I learned is very touching for them."

It is with this salute, that Judge does what he can so no life goes without a final honor.

“If I were to encourage people to get involved in other people's lives, I would encourage them, don't let your fear of the unknown hamper you from being involved in other people's lives," Judge said. "It will change you, it will grow you up and it will make you more tender-hearted and loving and that is priceless."

To volunteer and get more information about Heartland Hospice call 317-903-9662.

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