In her 27 years as a Navy nurse, Jennifer Town was never deployed, but she now spends most of her time caring for those who were, helping mend bodies and in some cases, spirits shattered by combat.
She will be honored for her service as a Navy captain and as a civilian at Tuesday's City Council meeting when Mayor Casey Tanaka will set aside Nov. 1 as “Jennifer Town Day.”
As director of the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care unit at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Town ensures that wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get the physical and emotional care they need to transition from military to civilian life.
“By the time they get here, they already realize that their life has changed,” Town said. “We help them identify where they want to be headed.”
Besides coordinating care for wounded warriors, Town also advocates for them. She asks individuals, service groups and corporations to “fill in the white space” of care, as she calls it, that the Department of Defense doesn’t provide. The services include free hotel rooms for visiting family members, iPads, gas cards and even furniture.
Having these items donated “lifts another burden for them,” Town said. “It’s one less thing they have to worry about.”
Her work with the wounded and their families has earned Town a national reputation as an expert in caring for patients with traumatic injuries.
An Iowa native, Town joined the Navy after graduating from Morningside College in Sioux City. Recruitment in the midwest was down in 1979, so the Navy flew Town and 20 other nursing students to Virginia and hosted them aboard the USS Nimitz.
“I figured I spent five years in college, I could spend three in the Navy, but after the first year they had me,” she said.
Town began her military career as a staff nurse in San Diego. After serving around the country and in Japan, she returned to the area and retired from the Navy in September 2006 as director of nursing services/senior nurse executive at the Naval Medical Center.
Along the way she earned a number of military awards, including the Legion of Merit, four Meritorious Service Medals and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. She also holds a Master's Degree in Medical/Surgical Nursing from the University of Virginia.
Two months after she left the Navy, she signed on to continue serving the critically wounded as a civilian.
“It gave me an opportunity to continue to do what needs to be done, to stand by them and their family,” she said. “It’s the best retirement job anyone could ask for.”