Suncoast Hospice Volunteer and Vietnam Marine Corps Veteran Skip Cutting honors 94-year-old WWII Navy Veteran Russell Palmer in our care

Once a Marine, Always a Marine rings true with Vietnam Marine Corps Veteran Gordon “Skip” Cutting. He shares a sacred brotherhood and sense of service with veterans in the community.

“Tampa Bay is unique because we have so many retired military in this area. We have such wonderful (veterans) organizations. We go into the military to protect our freedom. I am especially proud to be a Marine veteran. It is a special bond and fraternity,” explained Cutting.

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, Cutting tells his stories of military service, a heartbreaking loss of a loved one and rewarding volunteer service supporting Suncoast Hospice patients and families, including veterans.

Honorable Service

Cutting, age 75, grew up in Pinellas County. Post-high school he switched gears and joined the Marines, despite his father’s wishes.

“After high school, I had an opportunity to play baseball. Professional scouts came to my house and wanted to sign me with a minor league organization. My dad had played minor league baseball and didn’t want me to do it. He wanted me to go to college. I was disappointed. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. On my 18th birthday, I enlisted in the Marines. My dad was a Marine. He was mad but also proud of my decision,” he remembered.

In 1965, Cutting deployed to Vietnam to serve with the 1st Marine Division doing recon and providing security in support of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. When he returned home, he used his G.I. Bill for college and earned three degrees (general education, education/biology and public administration/criminal justice). He married twice, worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for 32 years, as well as taught middle school, coached basketball and served as interim police chief with the Pinellas County Schools system.

Life Interrupted

Ready to enjoy his retirement, life suddenly took a turn for the worse when his second wife became ill.

“We had a nice boat and condo on the water. She came home and said she passed out in the car and threw up. I took her to Bayfront hospital. They ran tests and she had a brain tumor. She died about seven months later, and that just about killed me. She was under Suncoast Hospice care for at least the last 45 days of the end of her life. I was so impressed with everybody at hospice,” he expressed.

Afterwards, he wanted to give back to the community.

“I was really down and out and trying to get my life back together,” he said.

Serving Again

Today, Cutting serves as a Stephen Minister at his church and volunteers with Suncoast Hospice. He provides companionship and support on visits with patients and families in their homes. As part of our Veterans Serving Veterans volunteer program he brings special camaraderie, comfort and military appreciation presentations for veterans.

He shared, “I’m just so passionate about these veterans. I try to give these guys an upbeat sense that their life isn’t over. While they are still here they need to have fun and smile, and if there’s pain we need to wash it away. Most of my visits are one-time presentations. I always say if they ever want me to come out and chat, I will be right out there.

Visiting one particular patient made a special impact.

“I got to visit one guy for about three months. We had been in some of the same places and had a lot of mutual friends. We really had a bond, not that we always talked about Vietnam but we also talked about how to deal with life. Losing him was kind of tough.”

Making presentations is especially meaningful.

“I presented a veteran’s certificate and the grandson was there, and it got quite emotional with appreciation and pride. I helped him raise the American flag on the flag pole. It was an outstanding visit,” he reported in one of his visit notes.

World War II veterans hold a special place in his heart.

“I went on a visit with a 92-year-old World War II vet. He was a widower. It was wonderful. I love being there with the World War II guys because there aren’t that many of them left. They are special guys. They are old-fashioned Chevrolet and apple pie-kind of people,” he reflected.

He hopes families also feel recognized and supported.

“A lot of these ladies have been with their husbands through their entire time with the military. They are now taking care of their husbands. In addition to what we present to veterans, I’d like to come up with a similar certificate to give to these caregivers,” he shared.

Join and Serve

We invite veterans to join our mission. If you’re interested in training for this special volunteer service, please contact us online or call Melissa Moré at (727) 523-3442.