Fourth of July Fireworks in Hawaii.

Fourth of July Celebrations Through the Eyes of Two Veterans

“People forget that the Fourth of July is not all about barbecues and fireworks. It’s a day to honor those who sacrificed in order to fight for our independence and the freedoms we all have today.” Rene Fonseca, TriWest Senior Operations Manager

Cookouts, parades and fireworks often mark our country’s Fourth of July celebrations. It’s a chance for us to spend time with family, enjoy festive gatherings and watch fireworks bursting in the night sky.

But the Fourth of July also gives us a chance to celebrate our nation’s independence, appreciate the freedoms we enjoy, and honor the military members and Veterans who selflessly serve to protect those freedoms.

This year for the Fourth of July, we asked two TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) employees to reflect on what this holiday means to them and share the special ways they choose to celebrate.

Celebrations Filled with Reflection and Fun

Rene with wife, kids and their spouses.Rene Fonseca is a Senior Operations Manager for TriWest in El Paso, Texas. He is married to his “beautiful wife” and is a father of three (two girls and a boy), as well as a “father to many fur babies.” Rene is a U.S. Army Veteran and served as a Patriot Missile Operator/Maintainer in the mid-‘90s.

Rene’s family has deep ties to the military. “I have uncles who were also in the Army, as well as my father-in-law who served during Vietnam,” he said. “Today, I have family members and close family friends serving in all branches of the military defending our great country.”

Rene spent time working in corporate America until TriWest opened a location in El Paso. A close friend of Rene’s told him about TriWest’s mission to serve our nation’s Veterans and military community. Rene moved quickly. “I applied and luckily I was hired in April of 2016,” he recalled.

Rene described the personal reasons why TriWest’s mission resonates so deeply with him. “My main reason for wanting to work [at TriWest] is due to the struggles I have seen in the past when family and friends tried to get the care they needed,” he shared. “I wanted to make a difference in support of those who served and let them know there is help available.”

Rene and his family celebrate the Fourth of July with a wonderful combination of reverence, reflection and fun. “Each year I have a large family gathering where the older generation talks about their time in Service with the youngsters.”

Rene with extended family.“After everyone is full, we roll out to the desert with flags flying high on our vehicles. We play music while the kids pop fireworks and have a huge finale to end the evening.”

When Rene reflected on the importance of the Fourth of July, he noted, “People forget that the Fourth of July is not all about barbecues and fireworks. It’s a day to honor those who sacrificed in order to fight for our independence and the freedoms we all have today.”

For Rene, the Fourth of July is one of his favorite holidays. During this holiday, he surrounds himself with family “to celebrate the greatest country in the world, remembering why we have all the liberties we do.”

A Chance to Pause and Make Lasting Memories

Zayne Zakimi is a TriWest Operations Administrator in Hawaii and describes himself as “a factotum, sort of a generalist and a handyman.” This description makes sense when you look at Zayne’s journey to TriWest. “I have an electronics background from the Navy and a geophysics degree from college,” he said. “I was a missionary in India and wrote programs to track missiles as a defense contractor. I was an IT tech with a medical center, and I am certified as a project manager professional. I learned first aid and patience as a parent.”

Zayne’s journey with the military began when he joined the Navy after high school. He was inspired after a recruiter talked about “a chance to see the world.” Steve McQueen, the “King of Cool” actor who starred as a Navy sailor in the 1966 movie, The Sand Pebbles, was also an inspiration for his joining the Navy. “I liked his attitude and the uniform,” Zayne said.

If Steve McQueen wasn’t enough, Zayne’s family also has strong ties to the military. “My father was a Marine during the Korean War and my two uncles served in the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II,” he said.

Zayne’s history with TriWest highlights the deep connections employees make with one another while serving our nation’s Veterans. After working for local medical health centers and health insurance companies, “I returned to TriWest as an Operations Administrator in 2016 after getting a call from my former TriWest boss, Karl Kiyokawa,” Zayne said. “I’ve worked with Karl since the mid-‘90s in some form or fashion through various contracts. He’s the main reason I returned to TriWest.”

Like Rene, Zayne feels the work he does at TriWest is significant. “It’s a privilege and honor to serve the military and Veteran communities, as well as work with the well-oiled Hawaii management team and staff,” he said.

For Zayne, the Fourth of July gives him a chance to pause and reflect. “I’m grateful for the sacrifice of Veterans who went before me and those currently serving,” he said.

Family is very important to Zayne, and like Rene, his family is an integral part of his Fourth of July celebrations. “Holidays like the Fourth of July are all about spending time together and creating memories with the kids and now with the grandkids,” he explained.

Zayne and his family create special memories by doing what many other American families do during the Fourth of July. “We go to the fireworks shows, country fairs and enjoy barbecues at home,” he shared.

USS America (CV-66) Island-1976.Zayne also spent many holidays away from home and family during his time in Service. He recalled an Independence Day docked in Taranto, Italy, where they had an all-hands picnic in the hangar deck of the USS America (CV-66).

For Rene and Zayne, the Fourth of July is made special in part because of their selfless service to our country and their ongoing work on behalf of Veterans at TriWest. But their Fourth of July traditions are also centered around things we can all connect to – a love of family, a time for fun and a chance to show our appreciation for our country’s freedom.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, make this Fourth of July a safe and happy one!

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