MARQUETTE, Mich. – Throughout 2020, Michigan Army National Guard Sgt. John Toomey helped defend his community in his role as a civilian nurse practitioner in the intensive care unit treating COVID-19 cases. In early 2021, he moved to the COVID-19 offense, joining the Michigan National Guard's vaccine mission in the northern part of the state.
“At the time the mission was offered, what mattered most was that it allowed me an opportunity to help fight against the disease,” said Toomey, a Marquette resident. “I saw so much of it while working in the hospital, so once the vaccination came out, I just wanted to help get as many people protected as possible.”
Toomey, a horizontal construction engineer with the 1432nd Engineer Company in Gladstone, joined the COVID-19 fight as a supply sergeant with Task Force North in Marquette.
Task Force North assists health departments with vaccines in Traverse City, Gaylord and the Upper Peninsula (UP).
“I’m willing to do anything to help life get back to normal or as close to normal as possible,” said Toomey. “I did not get to hold my newborn nephew for over a year, and I just want to give myself and all Michiganders the opportunity to be with others.”
An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner in his civilian career, Toomey works for the UP Health System in Marquette. Toomey said because they have all the ventilators in that part of the state, they are the only ICU in Northern Michigan able to care for COVID-19 patients.
For years Toomey worked as a registered nurse in the emergency room. In 2017 he went back to school to become a nurse practitioner and joined the Michigan National Guard.
“I wanted to go into the military and learn something other than what I do in the civilian sector,” he said. “I’m pretty trained up medically as a civilian and thought it would broaden what I can bring to the military.”
Already a registered nurse when he joined the military, Toomey could have enlisted in the same job or become a medic. However, he wanted to expand his horizons and learn to do something more than what he did every day. By joining the Michigan National Guard, he also gained leadership experience.
“I’ve noticed in very acute situations my leadership skills can come into play, and it gives me a little more sense of pride around the workplace,” said Toomey.
After spending all of 2020 working in the ICU and the last three months helping with the vaccination effort, Toomey has seen vastly different sides of what has helped Michiganders during the pandemic.
“Seeing everyone, Soldiers and civilians alike, put everything that they have into this mission to help the people of Michigan is something that I hold close to my heart – it’s really special,” said Toomey.