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Jana Werson
Nurse, United States Navy
 Florida State Flag
Courtesy of First Coast News of Florida

Navy Nurse Killed While Jogging  
By Charlene Shirk

JACKSONVILLE, FLPRIDA - She's a navy nurse, stationed in Virginia. But just last week, 26-year-old Jana Werson came back to Jacksonville to visit family and friends. But her trip would be cut short in a tragic crash that took her life.
 

Jana Werson PHOTO

Werson was running along Sunbeam Road in Mandarin Sunday evening. She was training for the Marine Corps marathon when a car, driven by 31-year-old Joseph Griffen, ran off the road and hit her.

Flowers mark the spot along Sunbeam Road where Jan and Dottie Werson lost their daughter Jana. In spite of their unbelievable pain, her father turns to his faith, saying "God caused that for a purpose. That God loved her and had a plan for her life and that plan was for 26 wonderful years."

In every snapshot from toddler to proud Navy nurse, there is a sparkle and confidence in Jana's smile. Her dad says you just couldn't miss it.

"I would describe her as probably one of the most outgoing, positive, lovely girls. She would come into a room and her smile, she would just beam that smile the room would glow."

Jana had a lot to glow about. She was living her dream. In her first naval assignment, she was working in the neo-natal unit at Washington's Bethesda Hospital. But her mother says she was striving to do even more.

"She was studying to be a flight nurse, to be able to travel, to pick up babies who were in difficulty and needed to come to the naval hospital," she said.

Jana was on a week's vacation from the hospital and was home visiting family and friends in Jacksonville. She had spent that Sunday morning at The Christ Church, where her father is an associate pastor and where she used to volunteer with the Bible study classes.

"We've had so many people say that when we saw her Sunday, she just glowed and it was like...in some way, God was preparing her or knew."

Knew, her family speculates, that later that same day, Jana would head out for an early evening jog. She was in training for the Marine Corp marathon and had only been out for some 15 minutes before she was hit and killed. Jana had no identification or her cell phone with her so authorities had no way of finding her family. Her dad says they started to worry after she was gone for more than an hour and a half.

"About 8:30, Dottie said, `where's Jana?' and then I started getting worried. At 9:00 p.m. 
I got in my car and started to scour the neighborhood. About 9:30, I called emergency rooms and she wasn't there. Then I called 911 and they said they would have a unit come out and meet us."

Jana's dad says they were filling out a missing person's report and "when Dottie gave her the picture of Jana she said I need to tell you she has been involved in a traffic fatality."

She was less than a mile and a half from her house when it happened. Several people saw the crash and rushed to Jana's aid. She was already gone, but a good samaritan stayed with her body, even holding her hand.

Her mother, speaking through tears, says she can't ever express how much that means to her - that her daughter wasn't alone.

"We want to really thank them for being there when we couldn't be there, because we didn't know and we're so thankful for that."

Even in death, Jana's strong faith brings her family peace at this devastating time. It is the way she lived her life that is bringing them comfort.

"I want people to know that she was able to cram 26 years of living well into her life and she lived it well," her family said.

Her love for people, life and her vibrant spirit is what her parents choose to focus on.

"We hurt because we're not going to be able to hug her anymore. But we know that when we die we will be able to see her again and that will make all the difference in the world."

One more final gift from Jana: her visit last summer to Arlington National Cemetery. It's where her mom says she told them she would want to be until they're together again.

"Jana just loved the little place set aside just for military nurses, and we just thought that would be a wonderful place and a wonderful place of honor."

There will a memorial service at The Christ Church on St. Augustine Road Friday, August 5, at 10 a.m. Many of her Navy friends from Washington will attend. Her body will then be taken to Arlington National Cemetery, where she will be buried with full military honors.

The driver of the car has not been charged in the crash. He told police he was trying to change lanes, but several cars sped up on him. He merged into the right lane, drove off the roadway several times, hit Jana, and then slammed into a concrete electrical pole. Police are waiting on toxicology results to determine if alcohol was a factor.


Posted: 2 August 2005