SEMBACH, Germany – Whether it is at work, in his home community or in his free time, service to others is a common thread that runs through Carlo Riva’s life.
Following in his father’s and step father’s footsteps, Riva, took a position with the U.S. Army in Germany in 1975 working at the U.S. Military Community Activity Worms NCO club. Riva, who had worked as a nurse and had a degree in business quickly moved into a clerk position in what today would be called the Directorate of Public Works.
Meeting Soldiers returning to U.S. installations in Germany from the Vietnam War is one memory Riva said stands out from early in his career. That was the first deeper involvement with U.S. Soldiers Riva had, he said, recalling how they often took the returning Soldiers to fests and introduced them to German culture as they acclimated to life outside of a warzone.
“Their stories really touched me very much,” he said of getting to know the veterans, “and I did not forget it.”
As installations closed and units moved within Germany, Riva moved through several positions before landing at what is today Installation Management Command – Europe in Sembach, Germany, where he serves as an accident insurance specialist. After an accident or illness, when the employee asks, “What’s next?” Riva is there to assist.
In his role he helps thousands of local national employees, across multiple commands and agencies, navigate the German and U.S. workers’ compensation systems. Riva said he sometimes has to go back decades in his archives to find information to assist them with their claims processes.
“One of the most satisfying issues in my job is really, it’s like something that’s half of my heart, helping people,” said Riva who plans to retire in 2022 after his 47-year career.
As Riva’s early career continued in Worms and then moved on to Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany, before making its way to Sembach in 2013, he also became active with various levels of works councils. He said he sees the councils as an important role in helping U.S. managers understand local national laws and vice versa.
“We are like a bridge builder between management and local nationals, to explain their role,” Riva said. And on the other side we have to explain to our local nationals how some things in the management works.”
Outside of his official duties with IMCOM-Europe, Riva continues his service to others as a city councilman in his German hometown of Worms. Although he never set out to be a politician, the Italian native said, he saw it as another way to help make things better for his fellow community members.
One task he took on in his role as councilman was to identify U.S. Soldiers who lost their lives liberating Worms in March 1945 during World War II. Since beginning his research, he’s identified around 20 Soldiers and contacted their surviving family members to thank them for their Soldier’s service.
A plea for information in a January 2020 Maryland newspaper article brought Riva into contact with the daughter of a Soldier pictured in a 1945 photograph of the liberation of Worms. Riva contacted the families of both living Soldiers in the famous photograph, but it still looking for information on a deceased Soldier in the photo’s foreground. In a follow-up article, the Soldier’s daughter is quoted, “‘I wish my mom was still alive to see it,’ she said of Riva’s efforts to recognize her now-deceased father. ‘It would have meant so much to her.’”
Besides ensuring the Soldiers are recognized, Riva said he believes it’s important to remember their efforts, “because people of today, younger people, have to understand that freedom and democracy that we have today cost a lot in life.”
Outside of his Army and councilman roles, Riva also is active within his faith, which he credits with helping him leave a life within biker gangs in the early 80s. In 1994 he published a biography on how he escaped the biker scene and continues to share his story to help others and actively preaches within his church.
After all of his efforts helping others, Riva said he still finds time to share his Italian cooking skills, for which he credits his mother and grandmother; to travel with his wife, often by motorcycle; and to play the guitar and drums.
In all things, Riva described the importance of service: “Taking time to serve, even in my role as a city councilman of my town, means that you take time for people, to listen to their problems, and to find out how to solve problems, and to come back and help them.”