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The HHC Veteran at the Center of ‘Stars & Stripes for Service'

November 11, 2021

Sometimes the smallest gesture in life can have the biggest impact. Bob Samartino, a nurse in Pavillion D at MidState Medical Center, has witnessed this firsthand the last 11 years. Bob’s story begins in 1984, when he was just 19 years old. While attending college at Central Connecticut State University, he decided he also wanted to serve his country in some capacity. “I decided to join the Army National Guard, so I enlisted at the infantry unit in Bristol, which is where I am from,” Bob said. He served until 1990. [caption id="attachment_36975" align="alignleft" width="150"]Nurse Bob Samartino Nurse Bob Samartino[/caption] Years later, while helping his parents through medical issues, Bob began to take an interest in healthcare. He decided to go to nursing school, graduating in 2009. That same year, he was hired at MidState Medical Center.  It didn’t take long for Bob to make memorable interactions with patients, which would set off a sequence of events that nobody – including Bob – was expecting. “I would start talking to men or women I was caring for and learn that they were veterans and I wanted to do something for them to help make them feel more at ease,” Bob said. “So I decided to buy a bunch of small American flags, stashed them in my locker at work, and when I knew one of my patients was a veteran, I’d give them a flag.” This went on for seven years, until it got the attention of colleagues and managers. They liked the idea so much, they, too, began passing out flags to patients who served our country and expanded the program to The Hospital of Central Connecticut. Fast-forward to fall 2021, when Hartford HealthCare stepped in and standardized this recognition across the system – launching “Stars & Stripes for Service” on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Every patient who served our country receives an American flag on that day, or similar gift of gratitude depending on the care setting – as well as a thank-you card. Because it’s important to recognize our veterans beyond just one day, certain Hartford HealthCare locations, such as our hospitals, have adopted this program year-round. [embed]https://youtu.be/Ca1qiNpQSM0[/embed] “We all have immense gratitude for those who have served our country. Stars & Stripes for Service is an example of how Hartford HealthCare continues to go above and beyond to make that interaction with our patients a meaningful one. We are so proud of the fact that this program got its start at MidState and has grown in such a meaningful way,” said Janette Edwards, Vice President of Operations for The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center. “It’s just truly incredible. What started out as such a simple idea has grown in a way I never could’ve imagined,” Bob said. “These flags are making a world of difference. I’ve seen men and women cry when they get a flag – it’s so touching. It means a lot to us, to the patient and to their families.”