William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Madison VAH Nurse Answers Army Call for Retirees
MADISON, Wis. — In 1986 Roxane Rausch raised her right hand and took the oath of enlistment to join the Army Reserve. Now, 34 years later, she is raising her hand again.
Rausch initially enlisted as a Patient Administration Specialist in a field hospital. Recognizing she would need more education if she wanted to move up, she took an opportunity to go on active duty for a year to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.
“I joined because I really am one of those patriotic people,” said Rausch. “I really feel strongly about what the US is and what we stand for as a democracy. I also wanted to go to college, and this was the way to do that.”
She used the GI bill to get her nursing degree and took a direct commission in 1998.
A Sergeant First Class at the time, the change to 2nd Lieutenant was actually a pay cut.
She went on multiple humanitarian missions and combat deployments around the world, including Panama and Iraq. She also served as a soldier ambassador working with the British and German armies.
“I loved it,” said Rausch, “I couldn’t believe they paid me to do this stuff.”
A 21-year combat Veteran, Rausch retired from the Army Reserve as a Captain in 2007.
“I did want to stay longer, but I promised my kids I would retire after 20 years, said Rausch. “I was able to sneak in another year. I thought they weren’t paying attention, but they were!”
She never expected to put on the uniform after that.
“I worked for several years in the state penitentiary system,” said Rausch. “It offered me the opportunities in mental health I was looking for and is was very similar to the military lifestyle I enjoyed. I was very comfortable in that environment.”
Rausch joined the VA in 2014 as a Registered Nurse with the Mental Health Intensive Case Management (MHICM) Range program based out of Waupaca, which is part of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital network out of Madison Wisconsin. Her other team members are social workers.
“I’m the only Veteran on the team,” said Rausch. “It’s kind of fun since I can speak the language of our Veterans and am familiar with military medical documents.”
The job was in the field she loved, working with a group she had a strong connection to.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic caused a critical need for additional health care providers across the country. To help meet that need the United States military sent out a call for retirees to come back on active duty and fight the pandemic on the front lines.
“I got an email asking if I was interested in coming out of retirement status,” said Rausch. “I emailed them back and said I was interested, and a week later I was sent an email asking for credentials.”
After she sent her credentials, Rausch received a call from a recruiter who talked her through what she might be doing. “They said I should expect to receive orders in the next 14 days,” said Rausch, “and it’s been almost 14 days now.”
Local media caught wind of Rausch’s intent and she was featured on WFRV-TV CBS 5’s (Green Bay, Wis.) Hometown Heroes segment.
“Roxane cares deeply for the Veterans we serve,” said John Rohrer, Madison VA Hospital director. “It did not surprise me at all to hear she was recognized for answering the call to do more.”
For Rausch, working with the Veteran population in the field of mental health felt like caring for family.
“This is the work I love to do,” said Rausch. “As a soldier myself, it feels like I am taking care of my own brothers and sisters. I’ve never been as happy at a job in my life as I am in this one.”
That made the decision to return to the Army Reserve a difficult one.
“When I was given the offer to go back active, I wasn’t taking it lightly,” said Rausch. “The tour could be a year or more, that’s a long time to be away from my team.”
Despite her reservations however, the support she received surprised her.
“The social workers, our admin support specialist, the entire MHICM Range team I work with came up with a plan to cover the Veterans,” said Rausch. “They really went above and beyond to support me to do this. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
While Rausch does not know how long her orders will be, or where the army will send her, but she knows her expertise can make a difference.
“I couldn’t stay home knowing I could do something to help, said Rausch. “If everyone went above and beyond what a wonderful world it would be!”