Leaving a legacy of caring
March 5, 2013
VICENZA, Italy- Bonamego is an Italian family name that means "good friend."
Rita Bonamego has lived up to her namesake by truly being a good friend to the Vicenza Military Community over the years. With more than three decades of experience between the American Red Cross and the U.S. government, Bonamego retires this month from Army Community Service, where she has served as the director of Mobilization Deployment and Master Resiliency programs since 2004.
During her years of service at ACS Vicenza, assisting thousands of Soldiers and Families during all phases of the deployment cycles, Bonamego touched the lives of countless people through her endearing spirit and selfless dedication.
"In my 22 years associated with the military I have never met anyone more dedicated to the well-being of our Soldiers and their Families," said Alicia Rohling, wife of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team commander, Col. Andrew Rohling.
"Rita is an incredible force. At great personal sacrifice she has chosen to extend her already impressive Rohling tour in Vicenza in order to see our heroes come back from yet another deployment," said Rohling.
She added that Signora Rita trained the Family Readiness groups and the Rear Detachment, personally cooked and hosted numerous FRG luncheons and commander's breakfasts, fed the Soldiers when their flights were delayed or canceled in Aviano, met every flight upon their return from Afghanistan, just to name a few of the extra little things she did because she wanted to, and not because it was part of her normal duties.
"Rita is a human dynamo always helping others and thinking of ways to make the community a better place," said Marva Dixon, ACS director. Bonamego will always be remembered because her service was beyond compare as "she continues to give of herself, leaving those around her feeling loved and cared for," Dixon said.
An experienced keynote speaker for the VMC, Bonamego was regularly called upon to share family readiness expertise and explain the variety of services and agencies the Army has in place to empower families to live successfully and allow Soldiers to focus on their missions.
"Rita is a woman of class, style, dedication and warmth that she exudes through every fiber of her being, who formed a legacy to always be remembered," said Shannon Reynolds, Bonamego's colleague and friend at ACS.
"She supported the last six deployments in her nine-year tenure with the simplicity of cookies, coffee, smiles and hugs as her signature," Reynolds said.
Bonamego's first approach to a multicultural environment began in Africa. Born and raised in Ethiopia to Italian parents, she naturally expanded her cultural horizons. In the course of appreciating human diversity and its positive, global values, she came to learn and speak English, Arabic and French fluently, and also mastered Hamitic, the local Ethiopian language.
In Africa she also met the love of her life, Anthony (Tony) Bonamego, her Italian-American husband when he came to the country as part of his Army service.
"Rita was a military spouse for 20 years, and from her personal experience she offers herself to the Soldiers, the spouses and the armed forces," Raynolds said.
A mother of three, Bonamego began working as a Red Cross volunteer when her husband was in the Army. When her children were grown she started taking paid assignments.
During her years with the Red Cross, from 1977 to 1999, she deployed to Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Kosovo and Bosnia, and served as wekk with Desert Storm troops in Saudi Arabia, as her language skills were indispensable in the rapidly changing global environment that the U.S. military has faced in the past quarter century.
A world traveler and self-described "grandmother in combat boots," Bonamego is getting ready to move on to the next chapter of her life. She and Tony are returning home to Colorado Springs, Co.
Asked about her imminent departure, Bonamego said that "my Soldiers and my Families are the best memories I will carry home with me. And a bit of my Italia, of course."
When she is not busy visiting the six grandchildren she adores, Bonamego's plans include continuing to do what she is best at, building morale and helping people. She has already contacted the Fort Carson Red Cross and the USO there, "for some little volunteering, once, perhaps twice a week."
For those who know Bonamego well, it is more likely that the new retiree in fact will stay home only once or twice a week.