Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Veteran, granddaughter get vaccine at same time
Many shared moments among grandparents and their grandchildren are precious.
But the one Marissa Mielke shared recently with her grandfather is possibly a life-saving one.
On Jan. 23, Mielke and her grandfather, 91-year-old Donald “Gus” Van Remortel, both received the COVID-19 vaccination at the Green Bay Health Center.
“It feels really special that we got to share this opportunity and that it relates directly to VA,” Mielke said. “I’m thankful for it.”
While Van Remortel is a U.S. Army Veteran, serving from 1948-52, Mielke is not a Veteran. However, on Jan. 4 she was hired as the Community Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator for the suicide prevention team. She’s based at the Appleton clinic.
Upon her hire, she was told she would be eligible for the vaccine. Meanwhile, her grandfather had already been contacted and set up an appointment.
When Mielke made her appointment, it turned out to be the same day.
“It was happenstance,” she said. “I went ahead and made my appointment and realized it lined up with his, and we were able to go together.”
Mielke’s mother accompanied the two so someone could be with Van Remortel at all times.
“Mom stayed with him while I got my shot, and then I went with him when he got his,” she said.
Van Remortel is a lifelong resident of De Pere, which is where Mielke grew up before moving to Oshkosh. Mielke worked for the state of Wisconsin before signing on with VA.
Mielke said Van Remortel is proud of his service.
“He felt like he did what every man should do,” she said. “He felt like it was a service he needed to do.”
And though she was not in the military, Mielke said working to help reduce Veteran suicide forges and new bond with her grandfather. And getting the shot together cemented that bond.
“It was a wonderful experience, with me being an employee and he being service connected,” she said. “It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have this tie.”
The two will be back at the Green Bay clinic on Saturday, Feb. 13, to get their second shots.