Pruetts ready to deploy,
but not to leave her kids
by Andrew Shurtleff
Lt. Cmdr. Karen Pruett stands in front of her alma mater,
U.Va.s School of Nursing, with her two children, 7-year-old
Kathryn and 10-year-old Patrick.
By Katherine T. Jackson
Cmdr. Karen Pruett, veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, is
highly trained and is prepared to treat soldiers injured in combat.
But she is less prepared for one challenge: separation from her
military nurse had been planning to head to a Naval Hospital in
Washington state after receiving a graduate degree from the University
on May 18, to prepare for possible deployment to the Middle East
in June, although that specific assignment is now uncertain. 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 wants to be separated from her children, even if passionate
about serving her country, Pruett said. Though deployment
might lead to 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 was preparing to return to a military hospital to
help care for soldiers injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. With
the armed conflict in Iraq largely over, however, that deployment
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 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