As the nation and the university prepare to commemorate Veterans Day, a remarkable individual at Southern stands out — Luisa Prado, a dedicated veteran pursuing her studies in nursing. Prado’s journey is one of resilience, commitment, and a deep-seated desire to serve and excel, both in the military and academia.
Currently majoring in nursing, Prado previously earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Southern. She embarked on her educational journey after serving in the military. Enlisting in the U.S. Army shortly after high school, she pursued a nontraditional path, finding her footing in the physically demanding military realm. Her tenure saw her rise to the rank of Sergeant E-5, a testament to her dedication and leadership within the armed forces.
“I get to handle certain types of weapons, travel the world, and deal with people in a different capacity. I feel like I’m compassionate, and I care deeply. So I feel like that lets me connect with people on a deeper level and give them a sense of belonging,” she said.
According to Prado, who continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves, what motivates her to continue her military service is the unique opportunities it offers and her innate ability to connect with others. She acknowledges that being a veteran means having had the experience of deployment. For Prado, Veterans Day is not merely a holiday; it’s a time to honor those who’ve sacrificed everything for others’ freedom.
“I feel like it’s important because we’re honoring people that came before us and made the same sacrifice that we all did because it is a sacrifice,” Prado said. “[During deployment] You’re away from people that you love, you’re away from everything you know and love in a foreign country.”
When asked about her experience, Prado reflects on the diverse array of challenges and opportunities the military presented. She acknowledges that it pushed her beyond her perceived limits, fostering a sense of continual growth and self-discovery. Her service took her to Djibouti, Africa, where she spent a year, adding a global perspective to her rich experiences.
While in Djibouti, Prado was part of the CMOC (Civil Military Operations Center) and served as a subject matter expert for all things Djibouti and Somalia. In addition, she reviewed reports from missions in the area with the intent to build onto a centralized database, and she was part of the team that supported civil-military operations.
“Being in Africa was a much needed and appreciated opportunity,” Prado said, adding “I love the people, their culture, and their land. I got to swim with whale sharks, visit Lac ‘Assal , and run the Grand Bara race. Definitely a unique time.”
In the Reserves, Prado attends battle assembly one weekend a month to conduct training — both general military training and MOS (military occupational specialty)-specific training.
When reflecting on the journey that led her to Southern, Prado, a first-generation student, says she has found a home at the university where she can pursue her academic dreams, largely due to her military service.
Her dedication and resilience have been noticed by her teachers, who admire her unique perspective and unwavering commitment to learning and caring for others.
One of her professors, Anthropology Professor Katherine Skoczen, noted, “As first an anthropology student, and now a nursing student, Luisa brings a unique perspective and keen intellect to the classroom. Perhaps what stands out most, however, is Luisa’s generosity and compassion – she is among the kindest and most caring students I’ve met at SCSU.”
Prado ‘s story is a testament to resilience, strength, and the impact of service. Her journey from the military to academia is an inspiring example of dedication, embodying the essence of what it means to be a veteran. As Southern observes Veterans Day, the community honors and recognizes the immense contributions and sacrifices made by individuals like Prado.
“It’s kind of full circle that I’m celebrating Veteran’s Day with SCSU,” she said. “I’ve just progressed beyond what I thought I was capable of. I never thought I would get a degree, but here I am working on my second degree. So it’s just, like, very dear to me.”
Prado’s story not only reflects her personal achievements but also serves to inspire gratitude for all veterans who have dedicated themselves to serving their country.