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Remembering Retired Colonel Jane Bigelow

by Rachel Kaufman

ARTICLE AUTHOR:  Pat Burns

 

Recently Mount Mercy Academy lost one of its most loyal benefactors and distinguished alumnae, retired Colonel Jane Bigelow. Reprinted below is an article that was written previously about Colonel Bigelow. Mount Mercy wishes to express its sincerest sympathies to Colonel Bigelow's family.

 

Retired Colonel Jane Bigelow of the United States Air Force and a proud Mount Mercy graduate served our country as a nurse for 24 years, including postings throughout the United States and in Viet Nam, the Portuguese Azores Islands, and twice in Germany. 

 

Jane Bigelow credits her Mount Mercy education for helping her prepare for her military career.  “In addition to receiving a solid academic foundation, I was taught early on about using my time, talent, and treasure in caring for others in the community.  Most of us think of community as looking like South Buffalo or West Seneca not only with people who have needs and struggles but with even more folks who can provide the physical, emotional, and financial means to help their neighbors.  This picture of community is also true of the military community. It is a much bigger population on a grander scale, but it is very much the same.  There are a lot of tasks and much to do to support the mission of loving and caring for one another,” Bigelow remarked.

 

Although she is retired from active military service, Colonel Bigelow is far from retired in her mission to provide continuing support for wounded veterans.  She is a member of nine military organizations that continue to challenge budget cuts to veteran services.  These groups write to elected officials and testify at congressional hearings about the importance of funding veteran services.

 

Colonel Bigelow was charged with establishing the Aeromedical Staging Facilities (ASF) at the Rhein-Main Air Base during the Persian Gulf War.  She was able to successfully master this extremely challenging task. A partial list of her crucial duties included overseeing the management and assignment of 1,000 flight nurses and medical technicians at seven locations within the European Theater of Operations (ETO), shipping, transporting, and receiving supplies for the ETO, and coordinating and communicating with two commands. As Commander of the 2nd AFS Squadron, once the war began, she was deployed to the Battle Staff at Ramstein Air Base where she worked with the Army, Navy, and Air Force hospital commanders stationed in Europe, moving patients in and out of their individual medical treatment facilities and she worked closely with the Operations Officers to request aircraft to move/transport patients from the war zone to Europe and/or to the United States for definitive/specialized care.

 

Fortunately, not many nurses are injured during military action, but Colonel Bigelow stated that several female medical personnel was injured, and one flight nurse was killed in a plane crash during the massive effort to get people out of Viet Nam as the troops were being withdrawn.  As the roles of females in military action have changed throughout the years, so have the needs of female veterans.  As a volunteer at Buffalo’s VA Medical Center, Bigelow noted that there is now a Women’s Health Clinic that provides comprehensive care not only to nurses but to all female veterans.  

 

In addition to her work at the VA, Bigelow is also the Outreach Committee Chair for the Society of Air Force Nurses (SAFN).  One of the group’s functions is to provide cards and care packages to members who have been deployed.  In addition, they support and assist members in need of help due to illness, advanced age, or crisis.

 

All of her war-time experiences, as well as her continuing volunteer activities associated with the military, have provided Colonel Bigelow with a clear understanding and appreciation for the value of programs like the Wounded Warrior Project.

“I often read wonderful, heartfelt stories about our heroes/veterans who are benefitting in numerous ways as a result of this comprehensive program.  I actively support/contribute monies to the Wounded Warrior Project, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Disabled American Veterans because I believe in their commitment to and work on behalf of our veterans,” Bigelow commented.

 

The Mount Mercy community is proud of all veterans, especially its own decorated veteran, retired Colonel Jane Bigelow.

"Mercy is more than just a school. Mercy is my second home and a shoulder to lean on. Mount Mercy has given me the confidence and resources to pursue my passions and make the world a more inclusive place, propelling me to take strides into male-dominated fields. Mercy blessed me with an environment to grow intellectually and in the community, giving me the foundation to make a tangible impact while making lifelong friendships."

Adrianna Awald

Class of 2022

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