A Skype salute

Published 11:23 pm Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lt. Pino salutes Petty Officer 1st Class Feliciano as she officially retires from duty. | Erica Fouche

Sailor’s retirement includes long-distance honor

By Erica Fouche
Combined Joint Task Force Paladin
Special to the News-Herald

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Technological advancements allow people to literally be in two places at once, whether it’s for a wedding, graduation, or even a childbirth — or in Lt. Maximiliano Pino’s case, providing the last salute at a fellow shipmate’s retirement ceremony.

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On Feb. 1 Petty Officer 1st Class Hospital Corpsman Amber Feliciano of Suffolk retired after serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, primarily as a preventive medical technician. She was at Vista Point on Naval Station Norfolk and Pino, and he was at Combined Joint Task Force Paladin’s Warrior Lounge at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Setting aside a time difference of almost 10 hours and a dodgy Skype connection, it was almost as if Pino was present in the room.

Feliciano and Pino’s families met in church while both were stationed in the Hampton Roads area and quickly developed a bond that only military families can truly understand.

“We both were rotated on deployments very frequently, so our families really came to rely on each other, whether it was for prayer support or childcare,” recalled Pino. “For the past seven years I’ve actually served as her mentor, which allowed us to deepen our bond in Christ and in our Navy careers.”

It was because of that bond that Feliciano knew she wanted Pino to be part of her big day.

“My entire ceremony was devoted to my family and the sacrifices that all military families make, so it was imperative that my last salute was a representation of just that,” Feliciano said.

“I understand the hardships endured during deployments, and it truly was a blessing Lt. Pino was still able to participate in my ceremony, despite being so far away. He represents all that I strive to be: devoted to God, family, and country. So although it would’ve been great to have him there with us, his deployment only helped me stress the importance of family and sacrifice that much better.”

The last salute at a Naval retirement ceremony is usually given to the retiree’s family, commanding officer or to the sideboys that are present, but Feliciano’s was aimed at the webcam.

“Receiving a sailor’s first salute is always nice, but the last one is so much more meaningful, because you’re farewelling them for the rest of their life,” said Pino. “I take it as an ultimate sign of respect, and I was honored to receive it.”

Another way Pino is giving tribute to Feliciano is by having a retirement chest built for her in Afghanistan. The presentation of a shadowbox is one of the most popular traditions of a Navy retirement ceremony, acting as a symbol of the sailor’s recognitions and accomplishments received throughout their career.

“PO1 Feliciano’s career took her from her hometown of Milpitas, Calif., to assignments all over the world, including stints in Italy and Hawaii. She has accomplished so much, so one of my deployment projects is to put together what I hope will be the best shadowbox ever created,” Pino said.

Now that her Navy career has ended, Feliciano is very much looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Romy, and three kids, Malia, Kayla and Tyler, in Suffolk.

“I’m truly excited to see what God has planned for me and I look forward to following Him the best I can,” Feliciano said. “My time in the Navy and the people I’ve met, like Lt. Pino, have taught me so much, and I know, not only will I never forget them, but I’ll capitalize on all I’ve learned and hopefully continue to grow into a better person. I may not be in uniform anymore, but I’ll always be in the U.S. Navy.”