WWII veteran: "I felt it was the thing to do."

The Honor Flight program is set to send heroes from across Kentuckiana to Washington D.C. Now, you'll get to know Jane Skillen. She's an Air Force veteran and worked as a nurse during WWII.

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WHAS11) – Honor Flight Bluegrass sends hundreds of local veterans to Washington, D.C. every year. Wednesday, the program will take its next round of veterans to the nation’s capitol to see the monuments and memorials built in their honor. That includes Air Force veteran, Jane Skillen.

Jane worked as a nurse during WWII. She’s decades removed from her time in the service, but said the experience shaped her entire life.

"Well, it was a different world then,” Jane said. “Everybody was joining the service.”

It was a world Jane jumped into head first.

"23-years-old, hadn't been out of the state of Indiana, got on a train in Louisville and went to Miami,” Jane said.

The Hoosier native spent two years at base hospitals throughout Florida.

"I felt it was the thing to do. They needed nurses,” Jane said. “There were airplanes coming and going all of the time.”

Answering the call to serve was something Jane's family did proudly.

"I had three brothers that were in the service- the Air Force, the Navy, and the Air Corps. We all came home,” Jane said.

Decades later, Jane picked up nursing again, taking a refresher course at the local VA hospital. 

"It was difficult to walk into a ward of 33 men and say here I am. So, I thought how am I going to break the ice? So, I walked into the ward that morning and said I'm Jane, you're Tarzan,” Jane said.

Taking charge comes naturally for Jane. That's what makes Tuesday’s Honor Flight both exciting and nerve-wracking.

"I've always been in control of everything I've done, and I'm not in control of this,” Jane said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. I’m thrilled. I get excited the day before I go. That’s when it hits me that I’m going.”

It's sure to be a day full of mixed emotions.

"It's going to be a very sad moment when I see those memorials. For some reason or other, the war and the results and everything is deeply engrained in me,” Jane said. “[I think about} the boys that were killed, the boys that were left there, the boys that didn’t have a chance to live.”

Jane’s got the same adventurous spirit and attitude she did all of those years ago.

"It's a little awesome. I don't realize I'm 97. I don't feel 97, and I don't act 97,” Jane said. “I’m going to hit 100.”

Tuesday’s Honor Flight is a fitting gift for Jane after a lifetime of selflessly serving others without ever expecting anything in return.

"No, I'm not a hero. I did what I had to do, and we did it willingly,” Jane said. 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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