For Almie Patricio, making sure people get the care they need is second nature. The Blue Shield of California nurse has been managing patients' care for more than three decades, aiding their recovery with a warm smile and a dynamite combination of expertise and empathy.
Almie and her husband, John – a retired Marine, Gulf War Veteran, and business owner – are active members of Blue Shield of California’s employee resource group Operation VET (Op VET). When John recently lost the use of his legs and became paraplegic, Almie dedicated herself to his recovery.
“Our Op VET family opened up their arms and embraced John and myself. My coworkers, my manager – they were always there. When John was sick, they kept asking, ‘Hey, what can we do for you?’ or ‘Which hospital are you going to? We’ll meet you there.’ They’re the ones who delivered food, delivered flowers, sent packages to the home. They invited us to Op VET events so we could be part of something.”
It was at one such event that Almie and John began participating in an annual tradition – the Fallen Comrade Table. Every Memorial Day, Blue Shield of California employees honor the fallen by placing commemorative tables in our offices with an empty seat to recognize those we have lost.
“The table represents those fallen brothers and sisters who served in the military that are no longer with us,” John said. “As a Veteran, when I see those tables I get teary-eyed. It means that someone cares. It means I’m not alone. I’d never heard of the tradition until Almie told me about it, about five years ago with Blue Shield. Now every year, I'll go stand at the table for a second, and remember the fallen. It's a beautiful thing.”
A town united in remembrance
Thanks to Almie, the Fallen Comrade Table tradition is growing. As an expert in care, Almie knows that community, connection, and purpose are key to healing.
So this year she and John invited their neighbors to honor Memorial Day together – organizing Fallen Comrade Tables throughout the town center of El Dorado Hills, California.
Almie personally asked friends, neighbors, and store owners if they had heard of the tradition and if they would like to participate. The response was tremendous.
A salesperson at their local bookstore set up a table in memory of her father, a World War II Veteran.
Their barber, a former Marine, placed a table in the barbershop window to honor the men with whom he served.
A local restaurant owner was moved by the invitation and organized tables in both his restaurants to remember his older brother and recognize his sacrifice.
Almie and John had a table as well, lovingly decorated to honor their friend and fellow Marine Corps Veteran Timothy Roland.
“I want to give big kudos to the Operation VET folks,” said Almie. “Especially to Carol Hoge, John Cruz, and Terry Ammirati. They are our inspiration. Op VET has been a really awesome part of John’s recovery. Now that he's getting better, we find that we have more time and more energy – and we want to keep on giving.”
Giving it their all, together
In addition to caring for patients, giving back, and bringing their community together, Almie and John embrace life for all it has to offer. Travel and service are high on their list of priorities.
Together, they’ve volunteered at Op VET sponsored events in Sacramento and San Diego and even visited the WWI Marine memorial in Belleau, France.
“Our very first time traveling with John’s wheelchair, two of my nurse friends from Blue Shield came with us just to support us. We didn't know what travel would look like. It was difficult, and I was so glad for them. Now, it's getting better and better every time.”
John recently attended the VA’s Winter Sports Clinic in Aspen, Colorado where he learned to ski, fly fish, and rock climb alongside fellow Veterans, and also swung by Colorado Springs to compete at a qualifying event for the 2024 Paralympics.
Next up, they’ll be heading to San Francisco, where John will serve as best man in their son’s wedding.
If you’re a Veteran and wish to be part of something special at Blue Shield of California, we’d be honored to work with you. We invite you to explore our Careers Page.