When Katie Boccanelli first put out the plea on Facebook on Oct. 13, she was hoping maybe a handful of servicemen/women in the Jacksonville area might be willing to visit her dying father in the hospital.
But by the time Gunnery Sgt. John Guglielmino died Thursday at age 69, more than 200 had made the trip to Curahealth Jacksonville to salute him one last time.
“Although my heart is completely broken, I am comforted knowing his final battle brought him to a beautiful place of complete peace,” Boccanelli wrote. “I know I have said it a thousand times, but I truly thank all of you that visited my dad, and those that sent love and prayers. He got the celebration of life that he truly deserved thanks to our amazing military community.”
Boccanelli explained in her original post that her father, a decorated Vietnam veteran in the U.S. Marine Corps, lost most of his lungs to cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange. The powerful herbicide was used by U.S. forces during the war to eliminate forest cover and crops for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.
Guglielmino also suffered a stroke on Easter and had been on a ventilator ever since.
He didn’t have much family in the area, so as his condition rapidly deteriorated Boccanelli reached out to the social media community in the hopes that they might help give her father a proper sendoff. If they were willing to put on their uniform one more time, even better.
“I know that my dad would be so happy just to see a few fellow marines (or any military member) stop by and say hello, shake his hand, or give him a salute,” Boccanelli wrote. “He is my hero, and all I want is to make him feel appreciated and special in his final days.”
Guglielmino, who served more than 17 years with the Marine Corps and completed multiple tours in Vietnam, also was recognized with a special medal from Congressman John Rutherford’s office, WFAA-TV in Jacksonville reported.
Boccanelli received so many requests for donations, she set up a Go Fund Me account to pay for her father’s memorial. The goal is to raise $4,500.
“The love and appreciation he received in his final days has meant everything to him,” Boccanelli wrote on GoFundMe.com. “He lit up every time he heard, ‘Semper Fi, Gunny,’ and I cried through every salute."