HARTFORD — When Aetna learned two company employees were killed in the Orlando massacre and a third was wounded, the corporation was quick to respond.
Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini offered words of support to the families of the victims, counseling was made available for employees and others, and the rainbow flag flying over Hartford headquarters for Pride Month was lowered to half-staff.
"Aetna stands with Orlando and the LGBT community in the face of the tragic events on June 12," Aetna said in a statement on its website. "We will lower our flags, including the Pride flag, to half-staff in recognition of the many lives affected by this.
"The company continues to investigate how this act of terror and hate may have hurt members of the Aetna employee, customer and member communities, to whom we extend our support, our sympathy and our solidarity."
Two Florida-based employees, Christopher Leinonen, a member of the Orlando Aetna Behavioral Health team, and Stanley Almodovar, who worked with the pharmacy unit in Tampa, were among the 49 victims killed at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.
A third Aetna employee, a woman, was also wounded and is recovering, but has not yet been identified by the company.
Leinonen's partner, Juan Ramon Guerrero was also among those who died. The nephew of another Aetna employee was shot and in serious but stable condition.
Bertolini shared the tragic news with employees in a note saying: "As the nation learns more about the terrible violence in Orlando this weekend, I wanted to update you on the impact to our own family here at Aetna. We have been hit very hard, and bringing this tragic news to you is deeply painful.
"Words simply can't express my sorrow for the pain and loss so many families are suffering as a result of this hateful act of violence. As a united family, please support one another and pray for peace in our society and our world."
Bertolini said the Aetna Foundation will make a contribution to Equality Florida Action, Inc., which is a part of the state's largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's LGBT community.
The company is also making counseling available through its employee assistance program to anyone affected, including individuals with no Aetna affiliation.
Aetna and Bertolini have been known as leaders in their support of the LGBT community. Bertolini is a founding corporate partner of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and was the national chamber's first "straight-ally" board member, said Jonathan Lovitz, the chamber's vice president.
"Mark and Aetna from day one set out to create a level playing field for the LGBT community," Lovitz said. "He and Aetna have always been ahead of the curve for helping the LGBT community get ahead. If anything we need more allies like him."
Aetna also received a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2016 corporate equality index, a national benchmarking survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality.
Both of the Aetna employees who were killed in Orlando were described fondly by friends and family.
Almodovar, 23, who worked as a pharmacy technician, was described by his mother, Rosalie Ramos, 52, as "a happy man with a big heart," according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Awakened by a phone call early Sunday morning, Ramos rushed to the club, hoping to find that her son had suffered only a wound to a hand or leg, the Sentinel said. But, the paper said Almodovar had been hit three times: in the chest, the stomach and the side. He died at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
"He was so proud of who he was," she told the Washington Post. "He would do his makeup better than anyone else. It was so easy to be myself with him."
Leinonen, 32, was born in Detroit, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida, his Facebook profile says, according to the Sentinel.
He started the gay-straight alliance at his high school, his mother, Christine Leinonen told the Sentinel, and more recently won the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for his work in the gay community.