Veterans Day is celebrated each year on November 11 to honor military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Today, more than 130,000 medical professionals serve in the Armed Forces, and many go on to medical careers outside of the military – including within our own Mercy Health system.
Dr. John VanSchagen, MD, regional chief academic officer at Mercy Health, said his service from 1988 – 1994 in the United States Navy Reserves helped pay for his medical education and prepared him for future management roles.
“Having been assigned to leadership and authority positions so early in my medical career pushed me beyond my comfort zone and helped me understand that physicians can and should be willing and able to help in a wide variety of health care settings and situations,” said VanSchagen. “In medical practice, my military training helped me be more comfortable with office-based procedures, team leadership – and teaching. It also promoted preparedness for emergencies, calmness in chaotic situations – and the ability to troubleshoot and find solutions where none seemed available.”
Infection Control Coordinator Ana Biggar, RN, at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, followed a family path to the military. Her grandmother was a nurse, and part of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
“The military taught me that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A team can accomplish so many more incredible things than one person alone,” said Biggar, who served 17 years as an Army flight medic and nurse. “Collaborating to give patients the best care possible is definitely a team sport, and my military service prepared me for much of that.
“Veterans Day is a reminder of the service my friends and family gave, and the service members whose names I will never know. It reminds me how grateful I am to have had the privilege to serve my country. It reminds me how valued military service is to our country.”
The military afforded many of our Mercy Health colleagues the chance to pay for a college education, see the world – and build camaraderie and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
“I was stationed for a time in southern Germany. One of my children was born there,” said Biggar. “It was incredible to take them to famous places all around Europe while on leave. I will never forget watching the broadcast of Christmas mass of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.”
“I was stationed in the Philippines during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which covered the entire Subic Bay Naval Station in ash,” said VanSchagen. “We sent medical evacuation teams into the jungle to help the local people with health needs and quickly rebuilt our naval hospital to care for our military members and their families. Later I was asked to serve in Manama, Bahrain in the Persian Gulf at the medical facility with Naval Support Activity Bahrain. I learned a lot about the culture and customs in a Muslim country that still helps me today.”
Throughout the year, Mercy Health honors and celebrates its veterans. Mercy Health Muskegon recently launched its Military and Veterans Program, and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s will follow in 2022.
“It is important to celebrate veterans because – to do so – is to celebrate service,” said Cory Mitchell, mission leader, Mercy Health Muskegon, who spent four years in the United States Navy. “Service builds national character, creates innovation, and advances the common good. We all benefit because of the women and men who say: ‘Here I am. Send me.’”
“Veterans Day is an opportunity to recognize my sisters and brothers in arms for their service, but also to celebrate the whole notion of service, because after all, service is ministry,” said Mitchell. “As a mission leader, I want to celebrate all those who are willing to give of themselves to serve others. I want to send all veterans a Bravo Zulu – which in the military means – job well done!”