Eight members of the United States Marine Corps from Camp Pendleton volunteered alongside Vitas Hospice Care to visit with senior residents of Raincross MBK Senior Living Community in Riverside.
Leticia Goodwin and April Lilly-Topachikyan, both field reps with Vitas Hospice Care, organized the event. Lilly-Topachikyan is a former Marine who served with Gunnery Sgt. Juan C. Manco, the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of this volunteer effort.
On the Marinesâ visit to Raincross on April 11, they exchanged stories with many of Raincrossâ veteran residents, including Leonard Shaw, a 91-year-old former pilot who flew Air Force One and Two for the White House from 1955 to 1963.
Shaw had the thrill and privilege of piloting for five U.S. presidents as well as many world dignitaries while his wife, Emily, held a position as Special Analyst to the Secretary of the Army in the Pentagon for 28 years.
Veteran resident Fred Konkel, a B24 Bomber Pilot who flew 15 missions during World War II, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart for his bravery and service. Konkelâs good friend and fellow Raincross resident Ed Paulino was awarded four Bronze Stars for serving in four major battles during World War II as a Field Artillery Sergeant.
The Marinesâ visit to Raincross provided a unique forum of storytelling between those who have served in the past to ensure our freedom today and those who are currently serving to secure our freedom for our future.
âIt has been an honor to have visited with the residents of Raincross,â said Manco. âIt is because of their unwavering sacrifice that my Marines and I are able to serve for a free America.â
Other Raincross veterans who shared their stories were Ben Herbert, Pete Smith, John Torola, Richard Perry, Harry Devereaux, Ralph Cowart, Gordon Tenpas, Vern Formoe, Stanley Randall, Richard Roach and Robert Miller.
âThese veteran residents shared amazing stories of their time in the service. My sense of gratitude could never be expressed in just a few words for what these veterans contributed in past wars such as World War II, Korea and Vietnam,â said Manco.
Lilly-Topachikyan and Manco, who consider each other to be family after 15 years of friendship and service, were inspired to give back to their elders but agreed that everyone, especially the currently serving Marines, came away with life-changing stories and memories.
âThis was truly a memorable day for all those who participated,â said Ruthie Daniel, Director of Marketing at Raincross. âThe highlight of their visit for me was probably the Marinesâ visit to our Memory Care Neighborhood. They saw what we see every day in our brave residents, that not even Alzheimerâs and dementia can defeat the memory of their service to our country. The Marinesâ were amazed at how accurately and vividly they could recount their years in the service.â