For most of us, our parents have shaped who we are and they’ve held our hands through every one of the important steps in our lives. Few of us have the chance to return a little of that care and support. We might make an effort by spending time with them every so often or even by helping them find a great place to spend their last years. If we’re lucky, we are given the opportunity to do more.
Mary Cavagnaro, daughter of World War II Veteran Samuel Aprea, considers herself very lucky. She helps provide around the clock care for her father and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Mary is an executive chef for a local hospital and intends to retire so she can spend as much time as possible with her father.
Aprea, a Navy Veteran who served in the Pacific, has shared many memories of his time in service with his family. “The story that rings in my head the most is when he was sitting and waiting for Japanese soldiers [on the bow of his ship]. He was 17 years old, and must have been so scared. Those memories still affect him now. How frightening it must have been,” recalls Mary. Stories like this serve as a reminder of the sacrifices Veterans have made.
As Mary was growing up, she says her father “worked so hard to give [her family] everything.” Mary remembers him working three jobs so he could provide his six children with a beautiful home and a full life. Aprea was always with them at the dinner table at 5:00 p.m., no matter how busy or tired he was.
Today, Aprea is receiving VA disability compensation benefits and is cared for by the VA Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Mary goes to appointments with her father on a regular basis. She describes the care and attention he receives as “exceeding any local hospital.” She appreciates the employees at the medical center, expressing her gratitude for their generosity, “There is so much care in regard to the Veterans … they go above and beyond to be friendly and kind and understanding.”
VA’s reach extends far beyond Veterans. VA also touches the lives of the families of Veterans. For Mary, knowing that her father is receiving “friendly, kind and understanding” care as he fights another battle, this time with lung cancer, is comforting. “If it wasn’t for the VA, we would have never known about his tumor, ” Mary stated.
There are many VA resources available to Veteran caregivers such as peer support mentoring, a monthly stipend for those caring for Post-9/11 Veterans, and programs that emphasize the importance of self-care to caregivers. Information on these and other resources may be found at https://www.caregiver.va.gov/ or by calling VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
There’s no question in Mary’s mind that she is exactly where she is supposed to be, “He took care of me my whole life, it’s my turn… He’s my hero.”
Note: This blog was authored by Hillary Hernandez, supervisory Veterans service representative for VBA in St. Paul, Minnesota.