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Blog: Stories and Insight

A Veteran’s Story: Sacrifice for Country and Family

When men and women go off to war, their families serve alongside them. While they don’t wear uniforms, they make sacrifices, too. Wives miss their husbands, husbands miss their wives, and the children miss their parent. Spouses with children become single parents overnight, juggling the job of two, all the while experiencing their own feelings of fear, stress, and loneliness.

Photo: Daughter O’Myra Rodriquez (standing left) and son Dinny Rodriguez (standing right) warmly surround their mother Kelly Rodriguez (sitting) along with Samaritan team members Serena Hnosko, social worker, and Joe DeSantis, chaplain, during the Veteran recognition ceremony thanking their sacrifice as a family of Oscar Rodriguez, U.S. Army Veteran.

Kelly Rodriquez was one of those wives. Her husband Oscar honorably served in the U.S. Army for 19 years, spending time in places such as Panama, Germany, and Vietnam. At times, Kelly and her children would relocate with him, getting the opportunity to live in and experience different parts of the world. Other times, when Kelly was unable to accompany him, she stayed behind to raise their children. Even when apart, she was always there with him in mind and spirit, loving and praying for her husband from afar.

“Being separated for long periods of time was hard,” shared Kelly, but despite the time apart, she misses the army life: “I enjoyed traveling, meeting people, and learning new things,” she fondly recalls.

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While Oscar was stationed in Vietnam, he was fortunate enough not to see combat but “could hear it [combat] everywhere.” He was initially part of the infantry but moved up the ranks quickly to drill sergeant. After falling ill, he became a security guard for the main gate. “They had to go through me if they wanted to get by, and that wasn’t happening!” he said.

When Oscar’s army career ended with an honorable medical discharge, he and Kelly bought a house in Browns Mills where they’ve lived happily for many years.

He had spent so much time away from his family over the years, when he became seriously ill later in life, it was very important to him and Kelly that he spend his final months at home.

That’s when Oscar’s family called Samaritan. Samaritan’s clinical team provides care in a person’s home – wherever they call home – whenever possible. Samaritan enables people to spend their final months in peace, comfort and dignity surrounded by friends and family.

And that’s what Samaritan staff witnessed the day they went to Oscar’s home to conduct a special ceremony to recognize Oscar and thank him for his military service – his wife, two of three children, and one of his five grandchildren were there by his side, helping to care for him.

The Samaritan team members presented a pin, bookmark, certificate and blanket to his wife Kelly and his family who had served alongside Oscar, supporting him throughout his career.

Every year, Samaritan cares for over 500 Veterans, just like Oscar, and does so with respectful inquiry about their military history, compassionate listening about their history that may impact their current illness and/or treatment, and grateful acknowledgement.

After the ceremony, Kelly went on share that after Oscar’s military service, he went on to become a cross-country truck driver, delivering goods all over the U.S. Kelly fondly recalls how her children and then grandchildren would travel with him, getting the opportunity to see the countryside alongside their grandfather.

These memories, along with the many others that Kelly carries with her, mean so much. Thinking back, she encourages everyone to “enjoy the moment you have right now.”

And that’s what the Rodriquez family did right up until the end. Oscar passed away peacefully on November 7, just a few weeks before their 47th wedding anniversary.

Kelly smiles at the thought: “Everyone has their ups and downs, but we’ve been blessed with more ups than downs.”