Everybody has a story. Though it may seem ordinary to some, each person’s story is unique and important in the tapestry of life. We will be bringing you a series of stories from people who care for Veterans across our Nation.

Meet Rudy Mannari, PA-C. His dad and all of his uncles served in WWII, so he pretty much grew up knowing that his path was to serve his country. After a couple of years in college, Rudy joined the Army and was trained to be a Medic. He didn’t have medical training nor had he shown any interest in the field, but his patriotic duty told him to serve where the Army needed him most.

In 1968, Rudy was sent to the 91st EVAC Army Hospital, in Tuy Hoa in South Vietnam. Most of us remember a version of this set-up from the TV show M*A*S*H, but as Rudy can attest, the reality was that an evacuation hospital was a very difficult place to be. Although removed from conflict, medics dealt with and treated soldiers who were very much in the heat of conflict. He has very strong memories of his time at Chu Lai Army Hospital, and found it to be a formative year for him. “For the first time, I really felt that what I was doing was very important and worthwhile,” said Rudy. “I knew I was making a difference in those soldiers’ lives.”

Rudy takes a minute from his day to chat with us at the Bay Pines VAMC.

Rudy’s experience in Vietnam solidified his commitment to his country. When he got out of the Army, Rudy took a job at the VA Medical Center in Albany, NY. He was offered an opportunity to go into the Physician Assistant (PA) program and was grateful that he was able to use the GI Bill to help fund his training. Rudy had a young family to support, so he continued to work at VA as an Operating Room Tech while he completed the two-year training program.

Although Rudy worked as a PA in the private sector for ten years, he eventually found his way back to VA. Among his reasons for returning was his commitment to serving Veterans. “I do what I can to make things happen for them to help their quality of life. I want to show the Veterans that they are with someone who can understand their story and share their experiences. There is a connection and they see there is a friend here.”

Rudy was also attracted to the benefits that VA offered. “Benefits add to the value of working at VA,” said Rudy. “Working here aids in my quality of life; we get great vacation and sick time and more regular hours too,” Rudy added.

Rudy’s commitment to serving Veterans is strong – he is eligible for retirement but has no plans to retire. Rudy loves working at VA and enjoys his contact with Veterans, especially those with the most severe injuries.

From his time in a war zone to present day, Rudy has taken his experiences and turned them in to opportunities to serve Veterans. Today, he specializes in Plastic Surgery – reconstructive after-injury and wound care, and he has published papers on these topics. He participates in academia and enjoys spending time with students and participating in programs and committees that enhance his skill level as well as others.

Rudy encourages all health care professionals to learn more about the exceptional benefits VA has to offer and the opportunities to serve our Veterans. As Rudy would tell you, “It’s the right thing to do…its service to our Country.” Visit VAcareers.va.gov to start your journey today!

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Published on Jan. 21, 2014

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