From Combat to College

Prosser administers a shot
Published date

Beyond a tattoo on her left forearm, nursing student Shana Prosser doesn’t advertise her military service. She spends her days in class or clocking in clinical hours at
the hospital, then returns home to her husband and two children in rural Chenango County.

When asked about her time in the service, the petite 30-year-old retired combat veteran rolls up her sweater to reveal a tattoo of a pin-up girl on her forearm with an explosive and an M-16 firearm — the kind she carried during her years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Barbed wire encircles the phrase, “Fight Like a Girl!”

“It reminds me of what I did and where I’ve been,” said Prosser, who got the tattoo after completing combat training.

“I don’t need special treatment,” said Prosser, who is expecting her third child in March and plans to graduate with her two-year nursing degree in May.

Strength runs in her family. Prosser was born on Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, and grew up in Navarre, Florida, where her father was stationed.

After high school, Prosser declined an athletic scholarship to join the U.S. Marine Corps. She was the first female in her family to join the military.

“I felt like it was my duty to serve my country,” she said. “I wanted to give back before I took care of myself.” 

Prosser was assigned the job of combat engineer, a role that includes building, repairing and maintaining structures, roads and power supplies in combat zones.

Prosser was trained particularly in building and detonating explosives for the Marine Corps bomb squad, a job that the self-professed “adrenaline junkie” relished.

“I loved it,” she said of her role on the front lines. She met her husband while posted at Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center in San Bernardino, California; the couple married eight years ago.

Prosser served seven years of active duty before an injury forced her medical retirement. While she can’t give many details about the incident, she said it happened while on active duty overseas.

During a night raid, she was in hand-to-hand combat when she was slammed on her back, injuring her thoracic and lumbar spine.

She refused surgery, and spent a year undergoing physical therapy, medication management and massage therapy. She also lives with post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD).

In the aftermath of her injury, Prosser turned her sights on obtaining her nursing degree. 

“It was always something I wanted to do,” said Prosser, who drew inspiration from her grandmother and aunt, both registered nurses. “Taking care of people, helping them when they are at their worst — this is where I was meant to be.”

Her planned career path comes as no surprise: she wants to work in the trauma department, drawing on the skills she learned in the military.

“I’ve seen quite a bit,” said Prosser, who was certified to treat gunshot wounds, missing limbs and other injuries common in combat situations.

While the atmosphere in the emergency room might deter others, Prosser said she feels at home in the hospital.

“I work better under pressure,” she said with a grin. 

Still, life outside of the Marine Corps hasn’t been easy. Prosser is open about her struggles with PTSD.

“It’s actually harder to be out (of the military),” she said. “Being out in public or in big crowds, that’s not something I can do.”

She turns to the lessons she learned while in the military to help: “You adapt and you overcome,” she said.

She credits her husband and children for helping her overcome the daily challenges she faces.

“It’s still an adjustment for me; I try to take it day by day,” she said. “Without my husband and children, I would not be where I’m at now and thriving.”

Prosser also credits Marine Corps camaraderie with her recovery.

“We are brothers and sisters,” said Prosser, who signs her emails with the Marine Corps motto, “semper fidelis,” which means “always faithful” in Latin.

“We take care of each other, whether you are in the service and active or whether you’re out. It’s a very close family.”

Morrisville Supports Military

SUNY Morrisville has earned the 2018-19 Military Friendly® School designation by Victory Media for its outstanding support to students who have served in the military.

The campus offers a host of educational benefits for eligible students in addition to veterans support services. An active Veterans Task Force, comprised of campus and community volunteers, assists with developing activities and support services to students, faculty and staff with military service and their families.