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U.Va. Military Nurse Prepared For Deployment, But Not For Separation From Children

April 2, 2003-- Lt. 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.

After she receives a graduate degree from the University of Virginia 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 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 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.”

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 is returning to a military fleet hospital to help care for soldiers injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“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 Persian 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 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.”

Contact: Katherine Thompson Jackson, (434) 924-3629

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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