On a somber Friday morning, July 10, 2020, hundreds of staff members of the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System gathered in front of the hospital to memorialize and dedicate a monument to three fallen colleagues. The three died during the coronavirus pandemic while in service to fellow Veterans.
Joining the staff were family members of the deceased, representatives of the Nevada Highway Patrol, and the Washoe County Sheriff’s office, including the sheriff. The ceremony had been postponed for months due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Once conditions permitted, those gathered practiced physical distancing and wore masks to ensure the safety of all attendees.
Sang national anthem for his mother’s memorial
Following the posting of colors by a Nevada Highway Patrol honor guard, State Trooper Josh Thompson sang the national anthem. For Trooper Thompson, the ceremony was deeply personal. His mother, Viana Thompson, was one of the three staff members being memorialized that day.
Thompson was a nurse whose heart had not only touched those at the Reno VA, but also surrounding hospitals as well. Her husband, Bob Thompson, met Viana in 1991 while both were stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. “God is getting one hell of a nurse up there,” he told the crowd.
Remembering a family man
Bruce McAllister was a model citizen and family man, often volunteering in the community. When he wasn’t volunteering, he was finding adventures for his family or taking his son to see the San Francisco 49ers play. His wife, Lana McAllister, remembers their last day together as one of the hardest days of her life. “The virus stole him from me,” she said. “It stole a dad from Bryce and a son from his mom. It stole a brother from his sister and family from all of us.”
His talent to listen and care
Alexander Gousev’s kindness was remembered by many. One co-worker recalled briefly mentioning his need for a new grill. A few days later Gousev called – he had a grill for his colleague. He had many talents, but it was his ability to listen and care for those around him that will be missed most. In 2000, Gousev founded the Holy New Martyrs of Russia Orthodox Church, where he served as deacon.
A Russian immigrant, his actions served for many as an example of how to be a kinder version of themselves.
The three stone memorials dedicated to Vianna, Bruce, and Alexander were placed in front of the hospital’s main entrance, standing as a reminder to all who pass by of the sacrifices made by these three in service to America’s heroes.
They may be gone, but their memories and selfless acts will live on, captured in stone.
Ryan Coverdell is a public affairs officer for the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System.