PORTLAND — A Maine solider who died Monday in Kuwait is being remembered by friends and fellow National Guardsmen for her big heart, adventurous spirit and dedication to her country.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing, 42, of Glenburn and formerly from Bowdoinham, died Monday, the Department of Defense said Wednesday. Officials said her death wasn't related to combat, but they didn't provide details on the circumstances.
Wing was a helicopter crew chief assigned to the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment out of Bangor. The unit provides medical evacuation to patients and military personnel using medically equipped UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
"I am heartbroken by her passing, especially as she was doing what she loved, protecting all of us," said Renee St. Jean, who grew up with Wing in Bowdoinham. "She joined the military after high school but would always stop over when she was on leave. The military was her life and ultimately her death. I am honored to have called her my friend of many, many years and believe there is no other way she would want to go than by defending her country."
According to St. Jean of Topsham, Wing grew up on Ridge Road in Bowdoinham. She attended the Bowdoinham Community School and graduated from Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham in 1988.
Another friend, Tracy Whitcomb Lachapelle, of Bowdoin Center, described Wing as intelligent, adventurous and fun.
"She was very outgoing, always the kid that touched everything, even if the sign boldly read 'Do Not Touch,'" Lachapelle said Wednesday night. "The thing about Jessica is she was over the top crazy fun! She smoked clove cigs and had a laugh that could be heard for miles. Her heart was huge and she absolutely adored her older two sisters."
Wing as a kid was a Tomboy, Lachepelle said, and a fearless one. She loved rum and cokes, dogs and horror movies. She was also devoted to her friends and family, Lachapelle said, not to mention to the country she served.
"She was a daughter, a sister, a friend and she fought for our country. I am heartbroken, along with many others that she passed away," Lachapelle said. "But if one word could speak volumes about her, it would be 'tenacious.' She will be missed and loved always."
Wing's fellow soldiers were also reacting to the news.
"The untimely and tragic loss of SSG Jessica Wing has deeply saddened and shocked all of us in the Maine National Guard and across the state of Maine," Col. James Campbell, the acting adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, said in a statement.
Wing served in the guard for eight years and was on active duty in the Army for 11 years before that, according to the Maine National Guard. She was deployed to Haiti and Bosnia while in the Army and was sent to the Middle East three times while with the Guard.
Wing was not married and had no children, officials said.
Gov. Paul LePage said Maine "has lost a great soldier and a great Mainer."
"We are forever indebted to her for her service to her state and to her country," he said in a statement.