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Retiree gives back to VA

Maria Fruin vaccinates a Veteran
Retiree Maria Fruin vaccinates a Veteran at Salt Lake City VA. After three years of retirement, Fruin rejoined the workforce to help do her part during the pandemic (photo by Bert Estrada).

A line of anxious Veterans winds down the hall at Salt Lake City VA.

As if in military procession, they file into the clinic, each awaiting their turn for a live-saving vaccine. There’s an unspoken tension on their faces, and when it’s over, a sigh of relief.

History is unfolding here – as it is across a nation toiling against an invisible virus. Amid it is former VA nurse of 30 years, Maria Fruin.

Until recently, it had been three years since Fruin last worked. Now, she finds herself back in the trenches, vaccinating Veterans part time.

“I know that there’s a lot of need for people to give vaccines all over Utah and the country,” Fruin said. “I love the VA. I love the Veterans, and I knew that if came here it wouldn’t feel like a job. I feel like I’m coming home.”

Other than halting travel and family visits, COVID-19 didn’t disrupt Fruin’s retirement plans much. She had a routine.

An avid volunteer, Fruin gave her time to the Red Butte Garden, Wasatch Adaptive Sports, and Salt Lake County Arts.

But when volunteer opportunities ceased, Fruin found herself with nothing but time. It wasn’t as much that she wanted to do something as it was that she wanted to help.

So, after a few calls – and in true government fashion – reams of paperwork, Fruin rejoined her VA family March 16.

There’s something that can be said about the act of giving, perhaps more so when it involves personal risks. But Fruin downplayed any heroic notions, insisting, it’s for the Veterans.

“I feel good about it,” she said. “I just feel like I’m doing something.”

The hardest part of rejoining the workforce was waking up to an alarm again, she said.

But the look on their faces – the note of thanks – her Veterans, make it worth it.

Fruin said she would help VA as long as she’s needed.

“I wouldn’t choose to work anywhere else,” she said.

Coronavirus updates & resources

Salt Lake City vaccination update: All Eligible Veterans

CDC vaccine website

Veterans Health Administration vaccine website

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