On a warm summer afternoon in a modest home about a block from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, one man’s family and hospice team gather to honor him for his service to our country.
Master Sergeant Armando Marino spent 26 years in the Air Force and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Today, Armando, 84, sits in his family home with his wife Rita, 78 – he is living with cardiac heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, today is no ordinary day for Armando and his family. Today, Armando will be honored for his dedication and service to our country.
Armando’s Samaritan hospice team, with the help of Samaritan volunteer Lance Corporal Chris Mora, stand proudly before him and surprise Armando with the Burlington County Military Service Medal as a Thank You for his military service to our country.
Hospice Social Worker Colleen Fritsch begins the moving tribute to Armando, “You answered the call to duty by enlisting in 1951… and serving in Korea, Vietnam, and Guam, and at bases in Hawaii, California and North Carolina.”
“We thank you for your integrity, discipline and obedience,” adds Nurse Angela DeNight.
Overwhelmed by the surprise, Armando whispers, “I’m so honored. I’m so honored to have served. Thank you.”
Rita, Armando’s wife, replies with tears in her eyes, “I’m so proud of him.”
“We know you, too, are not without sacrifice, Rita,” says Chaplain Anne Butts. Thank you for all you’ve done to support Armando and care for your family.”
Anne affixes a special Samaritan “We Honor Vets” pin to Rita’s lapel.
Armando and Rita have stood by each other’s sides from the beginning. They first met when Armando was stationed in New Hampshire. Both were at the same dance, but they didn’t cross paths initially. It wasn’t until Armando spotted Rita across the local diner after the dance that the two were finally introduced!
The lovely pair will celebrate 58 years of marriage on September 1st. They have two children, Thomas and Daniel, and 6 grandchildren.
Over the couch in the living area of this 50-year-family home – at its rightful place in the center of the room – is a large painting of a young Rita in a black velvet dress against a water-like, aqua-blue background.
With delight, Rita explains, “This was an 11th anniversary present from Armando. While in Korea, he asked me to send him a picture of myself. So I did.”
She smiles and looks at her husband lovingly.
“When it arrived,” she continues. “I put it in the back of my car and drove all the way to New Hampshire (from Fort Dix) to show my family!”
Turns out, Armando never had art lessons. But, his love for Rita shines through in his delicate, detailed brush strokes.
We Honor Vets
Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice strives to honor veterans as part of a national an initiative, We Honor Veterans, a program created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Samaritan has been recognized with four-star status in the We Honor Veterans program – one of only 4 hospices in New Jersey — and one of 179 of more than 5500 hospices nationwide to earn this prestigious designation.
Samaritan’s participation demonstrates its commitment to supporting veterans through serious illness and end of life and honoring their service to our nation.
Thanks to the work of a dedicated hospice team and Samaritan’s mission to honor veterans, one family is able to gather together today to honor their patriarch for his service to our country – and, in the process, celebrate the ever-lasting love of a husband and wife.