Nurse ready for deployment
but not for separation from children
by Andrew Shurtleff
Lt. Cmdr. Karen Pruett stands in front of her soon-to-be alma
mater, U.Va.s School of Nursing, with her two children,
7-year-old Kathryn and 10-year-old Patrick. Pruett will assist
in Operation Iraqi Freedom following graduation May 18, and
her children will travel to Ohio to live with her brother.
By Katherine T. Jackson
Cmdr. Karen Pruett, veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, is
highly trained and prepared to treat soldiers injured in Operation
Iraqi Freedom. But she is less prepared for one challenge: separation
from her children.
she receives a graduate degree from U.Va. on May 18, the military
nurse will head to a naval hospital in Washington state to prepare
for possible deployment to the Middle East in June. Her children,
7-year-old Kathyrn and 10-year-old Patrick, will travel to Ohio
to live with Pruetts brother.
time I will be facing separation from my children, which I didnt
have during the first Gulf War, said Pruett. But my
work is important not because of my freedom, but freedom for my
children. I want a better world for them.
mother ever truly wants to be separated from her children, even
if passionate about serving her country, Pruett said. Though
deployment might lead to long separations, Patrick and Kathryn
see me doing a job that I love and take pride that their Mom is
in the military.
the past two years, Pruett, 37, has coped with life as a single
mother and student, juggling a hectic 10- to 13-credit-hour schedule,
the childrens school activities and doctors and dentists
appointments. But Pruett is also a professional soldier. The military
family came to Charlottesville from Rota, Spain, so that Pruett
could receive advanced training in U.Va.s graduate nursing
program. Now a clinical nurse specialist, Pruett will train new
nurses and corpsmen in military hospitals to care for patients
during both war and peacetime.
graduating from Ohio State University in 1989, Pruett joined the
Navy. A year later she reported aboard the 1,000-bed USNS Comfort
and served for eight months in the Persian Gulf. Twelve years
later, Pruett is returning to a military fleet hospital to help
care for soldiers injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
enjoy travel and like the idea of trying new things and living
in new places every three to four years, she said. I
find my career challenging but rewarding, as I not only work for
the U.S. Navy, I work for my country.
Pentagon reports that women make up 15 percent of the active-duty
forces one in six in comparison with just more than
one in 10 during the first Persian Gulf War. And 8 percent of
women in the military, like Pruett, are single parents.
said the source of her sense of duty and service might be related
to the death of her father when she was 16 years old. A police
officer, he was killed in the line of duty attempting to thwart
saw my father in a service role as a police officer, and the thousands
of people who attended his funeral and offered personal stories
of how he impacted their lives created a goal for me to impact
peoples lives on some level as he did.
I wanted to
do more than just work in a local hospital, and I saw military
service as allowing me to be a nurse and participate in an even
larger scale of service, Pruett said.
for the children following their mothers career path, Pruett