We make a living by what we do, but PFC Vincent Savarino has been making a life by what he has given to his comrades for over 31 years at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
As the medical center’s oldest active volunteer, Savarino’s work ethic is like no other. Refusing to retire although he will reach 100 years of age April 23, he jokingly explains that, “My pay would be docked if I didn’t show up for a day of work.”
Savarino volunteers at the medical center each week as an Information Desk Ambassador and as a member of the Popcorn Committee where he makes and sells popcorn to benefit inpatients.
After serving two tours of duty in the Army from 1935-1941, he remembers the distress of the Great Depression and World War II.
Veteran volunteer Savarino to mark 100th Birthday
“It was a time of rationing and shortages of food” Savarino says. “Workers worked long hours. I joined the Army to keep myself out of trouble. Things were rough back then. I was shining shoes on my knees in front of the post office at West Farms, Bronx, New York, for a nickel with my brother and sisters before I enlisted.”
Volunteering at the medical center provides Savarino the opportunity to continue to serve his peers.
“Our volunteers give selflessly of their time for many reasons,” explains Russell E. Lloyd, medical center director. “They may enter our doors seeking experience, something to do after retirement, a way to keep up with fellow Veterans, or simply wanting to say thank you. Mr. Savarino’s commitment reminds us of the critical role we have in our mission to care for America’s Veterans by serving and honoring them daily. We are inspired by his dedication and proud to call him a member of our medical center’s team.”
Savarino insists that he will continue to serve as long as he is able. “The way I look at it, these guys all had to go into the service. My age compared to theirs, they’re all youngsters. I choose to volunteer here because I felt that I should help them out. Many of these guys can’t remember what the service was like. I like to help them remember. Whatever I’m doing here, I figure it’s something good for the Veterans.”
PFC Vincent Savarino, bottom right corner, with members of the 8th Field Artillery, Battery A, on a beach in Oahu, Hawaii in 1935
This year marks a significant accomplishment for the volunteer. His 100th birthday will be celebrated at the medical center in Wilkes-Barre during National Volunteer Week.
Debra Schlosser, chief of Voluntary Service, is coordinating the special celebration for the volunteer. “Mr. Savarino is a stunning example of the camaraderie and support that highlights our volunteer program here at the medical center. We’re incredibly honored to celebrate this milestone with him. The Medical Center looks forward to saluting Mr. Savarino on his 100th birthday and thanking him for his service to this country.”
This year, VA Voluntary Service joins the nation in celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, by honoring the selfless service of people like Mr. Savarino, who lend their time and talents to Veterans and their families.
About the author: Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, is a Voluntary Service Assistant at the VAMC Wilkes-Barre, PA