Jane Skillen, one-time Air Force Nurse, stood outside of the ward of her local VA Hospital. It had been decades since she was last in this position, and faced with the prospect of greeting a room full of 33 male veterans, she asked herself, “How am I going to break the ice?”
Rewind to 1943. World War II was pulling nearly an entire generation of men away from their homes and towards the battlefield. Calls to serve one’s country were everywhere; magazines featured brightly colored ads, posters were hung in storefronts, and in some areas, leaflets fluttered down from the sky after being dropped by planes. For Jane though, the strongest call came from within. When asked by local news station WHAS 11 why she joined the Air Force, she stated, “I felt it was the thing to do. They needed nurses.”
So, the 23-year-old Indiana native who had never left her home state travelled to Louisville, Kentucky, boarded a train, and headed down to Miami, Florida - over 1,000 miles away from everything she had ever known. Jane served as a nurse for two years in base hospitals throughout Florida, while her three brothers served in the Air Force, the Navy, and the Air Corps. In the end, they all came home.
Years later, the veterans at Jane’s local VA Hospital met a woman whose strength of character was matched by her sharp sense of humor. Walking into the ward, she introduced herself by saying, “Me Jane. You Tarzan.”
How did this meeting happen? Jane is a resident at Hampton Oaks Health Campus, our location in Scottsburg, Indiana. Many of our communities have partnered with the Honor Flight Network; a non-profit organization that regularly transports veterans to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials. Once the staff at Hampton Oaks heard Jane’s story, they knew they had to get her on the next flight. They contacted Honor Flight Bluegrass, and before Jane knew it, her trip was booked!
She was ecstatic. “I’ve always been in control of everything I’ve done, and I’m not in control of this,” she told the reporter from WHAS 11. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m thrilled. I get excited the day before I go. That’s when it hits me that I’m going.”
While she and her brothers were lucky enough to come home from the war, the lives that were lost still weigh heavily on Jane. “It’s going to be a very sad moment when I see those memorials,” she said. “…the boys who were killed, the boys that were left there, the boys that didn’t have a chance to live.”
Jane’s Honor Flight trip was marked by moments of both joy and sadness. After a warm welcome in Washington, she and other veterans were treated to a police-escorted tour of several war memorials, and they laid a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For Jane, the entire experience was a dream come true. The hundreds of people who greeted the group at the Louisville airport upon their return thanked Jane and her fellow veterans for being heroes. According to Jane, she is undeserving of the title. “No, I’m not a hero. I did what I had to do, and we did it willingly.”
We politely disagree. As do countless others.
It was an honor and a privilege to make Jane’s dream come true. If you don’t already, follow Trilogy Health Services on Facebook to see more of our resident veterans enjoying their own Honor Flight experiences! It is truly our pleasure to serve those who have served our country.
To find a Trilogy senior living community near you, visit our locations page.