May 16-22 2003
Back Issues
Bond, Morse, Terry win 2003 Sullivan Awards
Advocate for diversity leads by example
Finals factoids
Music major creates programs for local schools

Tragedy spurs Muslim student’s effort to bring understanding

Finding history among the trees
Community through architecture
Moving toward a more inclusive environment
Jobe leads with faith, activism
Exploring vast worlds with Harrison Awards
Harvey blends work, study with passion for civic participation
Designing women sow success
Merging technology, music and art
From one-room school to athletic field
Persistence pays for Ukrainian student
Swimmer sets her eyes on Olympic event
Firefighting ideal job for Jefferson Scholar
Pruett’s ready to deploy, but not to leave her kids
Cancer survivor helps others
Pruett’s ready to deploy, but not to leave her kids
Navy 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.
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Navy 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

Lt. 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 children.

The 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 Pruett’s brother.

“This time I will be facing separation from my children, which I didn’t 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.

“No 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.”

Over 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 children’s school activities and doctor’s and dentist’s 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.

After 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 might change.

“I 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.”

The 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.

Pruett 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 a burglar.

“I 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 people’s 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.

As for the children following their mother’s career path, Pruett said, “Absolutely.”



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