Mary Jo Pine

Veteran of the Year: Mary Jo Pine

“She touches lives. She heals lives. She gives people hope.” This is Mary Joe Pine. Mary Jo Pine comes from a Naval family and is a staunch, effective advocate for veterans, service members and their families — as a nurse and in preventing suicides. Born and raised in Sauk Rapids, she served as a Naval Corpsman from 1973-1977 and continues her service at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Cloud. Ms. Pine found opportunities to exceed expectations in bootcamp and beyond. After completing Class C radioman training, she served in Puerto Rico for a year in the naval communications station. Because of the need for a female corpsman to serve navy wives in the dispensary, she was permitted to become cross rated for the hospital corps. It took the action of her Congressman to get her approved after an initial denial because of her sex. Ms. Pine was also based in San Diego and then Washington. Afterwards, she and her naval husband lived in Texas, where he was based, returning to Minnesota after his 20 years of service. While she received relevant training and earned needed general credits prior to returning to Minnesota, Ms. Pine earned her nursing degree once back in Minnesota.

After working with patients in long term care, she began working at the St. Cloud VAMC in 2001.
Ms. Pine is passionate about preventing suicides and helping veterans. She’s led the VAMC’s Suicide Prevention efforts working as the sole coordinator for 12 years – at which time the national VA decreed it would take 2.5 people to do the work she did alone. She is well connected to formal and informal networks to assist veterans and is accessible day or night. Ms. Pine has long served as a liaison to the community, including representing the VAMC on the 4-county adult mental health initiative (CAMHI) working with county leaders to ensure veterans residing in these counties have access to mental health, alcohol and detoxification services. She currently chairs the CAMHI advisory group consists of more than 40 community providers serving persons with mental health barriers. Mary Jo recognizes the need for robust community services as only a percentage of veterans receive services from VAMC.

Ms. Pine’s effectiveness demonstrate the importance of connecting people to the right services. Her volunteer work with the Senior Connection, Benton LAC, CAMHI, marine corps league, DAV, connections to veterans service officers and more have helped her “help the veteran” assisting on nights and weekends to help when help is needed. She believes in treating the whole person. For example many veterans experience chronic pain issues. They need to be medically stable before they can be treated for mental health. Ms. Pine’s passion is as a nurse and then helping veterans to be safe.

Mary Jo Pine: she truly touches lives, heals lives, gives people hope.