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March 8, 2019
Life After Witt

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Mary-Elizabeth Pratt ’15 tells her Coast Guard story to The New York Times

Pictured above: Mary-Elizabeth Pratt '15 (right) and her mother, Trish, at her US Coast Guard graduation ceremony

Inspired by her late father and guided by her Wittenberg education, Mary-Elizabeth Pratt ’15 spent four years enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. During that time, she “had the opportunity to do everything from drug and migrant interdiction to hurricane disaster response.” She also found time to write for Task & Purpose and We Are the Mighty, two popular military websites.

The combination of her experience in the Coast Guard and her writing acumen converged recently as she was invited to contribute a short story about her service for a feature story in The New York Times spotlighting servicewomen and veterans for International Women’s Day:

“After Hurricane Maria, I was deployed to do recovery operations in eastern and central Puerto Rico. The amazing resilience of the Puerto Rican people couldn’t compare to anything I had ever seen before. There was a woman about my age (I was 22 at the time) with a very young baby. I asked her how old she was, and she said the infant was about 4 weeks old — meaning she had been born either during or in the days after the hurricane. I can't imagine having a baby without a doctor, running water or electricity. But there she was, showing me her beautiful baby girl.”


Mary-Elizabeth Pratt '15 in the New York Times

Pratt said she participated in multiple humanitarian missions to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. She supplied food and water and other assistance as needed to more than 1,000 families in four cities, and her work was recognized with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Medal.

Before graduating from Wittenberg in 2015 with a degree in history, Pratt enlisted in the Coast Guard, where she became a Maritime Enforcement Specialist, serving as a Tactical Crew Gunner for the Port Security Unit. As a reservist, she also worked for the military service organization, Fisher House Foundation, in Washington, D.C., in 2016. She moved to the Pentagon in 2018 to work for the United States Air Force as the Executive Assistant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Logistics & Product Support).

That’s a lot to pack into just four years, but it should come as no surprise. Pratt had plenty on her plate during her undergraduate years as well.

“Wittenberg really help me focus my passion and my drive. When I was at Wittenberg, I found what I wanted to do: To change lives, and to share the Coast Guard story,” she said. “My senior capstone was on the Coast Guard's role in Alaska. I had interned for the U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London, Connecticut, the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the Coast Guard Heritage Museum in Barnstable, Massachusetts. I always knew, from the time I was a little kid, that I'd join the military someday, and right after college seemed like the right thing to do.

“(Professor of History) Molly Wood was my senior seminar professor, and she really encouraged my passion. She's since been one of my biggest cheerleaders, in everything from my career to fostering orphaned kittens. I also have the support of my Wittenberg friends and my sorority sisters. The D.C. alumni group has been instrumental in my journey, as well as the entire community of people I met at Wittenberg.”

Contributing to The New York Times article is a thrill for Pratt, and she is quick to share credit with other women who have impacted her life.

“I was honored to be one of 40 military women, just three of whom are in the Coast Guard, to be featured in the article,” she said. “It is an honor to be a part of a lineage of strong, beautiful women who have touched my hand to help me along my way, including my amazing mom, Trish, Liz Hunter '69 who originally introduced me to Wittenberg, and Jennifer Gaudio, my first supervisor in the Coast Guard who shared her passion with me, and VADM Sandra Stosz (USCG, Ret.) who was my first military mentor.”

Ryan Maurer
Ryan Maurer
Senior Writer and Web Communications Specialist

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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