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Coming Home
Two ECU Employees Return from Service in Afghanistan
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The East Carolina University family welcomed two of its own back into the fold this month, when P.J. Schenarts (Medicine) and Pat Frede (Allied Health Sciences) returned from service overseas. Their stories follow:

P.J. Schenarts
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Spencer Schenarts, 4, and his mother, Kim, await the sight of their father and husband, Dr. P.J. Schenarts, at the Pitt-Greenville Airport on Thursday. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Surgeon Welcomed Back from Afghanistan

By Doug Boyd
 
Balloons, flags, a stack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and lots of hugs greeted Dr. P.J. Schenarts Oct. 14 as he returned home following a four-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Schenarts, an associate professor of surgery at East Carolina University and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, spent the summer saving lives as deputy commander of the 344th Combat Support Hospital at Forward Operating Base Salerno. He arrived at the Pitt-Greenville Airport around 2 p.m.

“It feels very good,” Schenarts said while surrounded by approximately 25 flag-waving friends, family and co-workers. “Great support of friends and family. Just wonderful.”
 
As his 4-year-old son, Spencer, leapt up to hug him, Schenarts laughed and said: “He’s gotten a lot bigger in a short few months. I’ll have my hands full tonight.”
 
The deployment was Schenarts’ sixth: four to Afghanistan and two to Iraq. With the 344th, he cared for American soldiers, contractors, coalition forces, detainees, Afghan National Security Forces and local nationals on a case-by-case basis. Following one attack, he saved an Afghan by extracting a live grenade that had lodged in his chest during the fighting.

Earlier this year, Schenarts described working at the hospital to an Army reporter: “To work here, you need your funny bone, your back bone and your brain bone. I feel like it’s not only my duty but an honor for me to be able to do this. Being able to provide critical care to soldiers is really wonderful.”
 
During one 38-day period this summer, hospital staff responded to 39 traumas and admitted 47 patients. They took nearly 600 X-rays, performed 57 surgeries, conducted 259 CT scans and treated 56 battle-related injuries

His wife, Kim, said neighbors along their street in Winterville have flown flags and hung banners in support of her husband.

“It’s been a challenge,” she said of being without her husband. “Lots of challenges, but what’s been amazing is just the kindness and generosity of not only our friends and partners and their families but complete strangers. They’ve taken care of us and been our lifeline.”

She said her main focus will be keeping her “workaholic” husband at home for a few days. He agreed, saying he has no set date to return to work and has one main thing in mind.

“I’m looking forward to lots and lots of food,” he said with a smile.

 


Pat Frede

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Returning to the College of Allied Health Sciences after 10 months in Afghanistan, Pat Frede enjoyed greeting colleagues at a welcome back celebration in her honor. (Photo by Crystal Baity)

Frede Welcomed Back to Allied Health Sciences

By Crystal Baity

One of the highlights of Pat Frede’s 10 months in Afghanistan was being embedded with U.S. Marine Corps Female Engagement Teams who try to develop relationships of trust and mutual respect with Afghan women in their own community.

Afghan women generally aren’t allowed to have contact with men outside their families.

“It was really an opportunity to make a difference,” said Frede, who returned as director of development and alumni relations for East Carolina University’s College of Allied Health Sciences on Oct. 18. She is a Navy veteran and reservist and was called to active duty in early 2009.

Following her missions with the female engagement teams, Frede returned to teach others what she had learned at Counterinsurgency Training Center-Afghanistan, a support hub for American and coalition forces, members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police Force and civilian contractors. There, she was the non-commissioned officer in charge and senior enlisted command leader at Camp Julien, just 10 miles on the outskirts of Kabul.

 “For all our differences, every mother wants the same thing for their kids, like medical care and education. They want a better life for their kids,” Frede said. 

Frede and other service members provided logistic support for the camp which ranged from food, beds and fuel to convoy operations for transportation and resupply to providing fire and security protection. 
Dr. Stephen Thomas, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, was among those welcoming Frede her first day back with cake and ice cream in the college’s faculty and staff lounge.

While constantly worrying about her safety and return from the stresses of war, he was relieved to have her back, Thomas said.

He said the biggest part of Frede’s job as a fundraiser is persistence. Before joining the college in 2007, the college raised approximately $36,000 a year in donations. In less than three years, she helped raise more than a million dollars.

“That shows her skills and commitment in development and alumni relations for us,” he said. “She gets along well with everyone, and senses their needs.” He said those same skills translated in Afghanistan. “It reinforces in me and our faculty just how valued she is to us,” Thomas said.

Leonard Trujillo, associate professor and chair of occupational therapy, said he had great respect and appreciation for Frede’s service. She kept faculty and staff updated with periodic photos and updates. “I shuddered to see you with a gun on your side,” he said.

“Pat is a great leader whether serving our university or our country,” said David Cistola, professor and associate dean for research.

Frede returned to the United States on Sept. 10 where she spent a few weeks processing in Norfolk.

What did she most look forward to on her return? A bubble bath and spending time with family.

Frede said she is grateful to everyone at ECU, especially the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation and the College of Allied Health Sciences for their support to her family during her deployment and the transition of coming back to work after being away more than a year.

Now, she is looking forward to once again “making a difference” for ECU, Frede said.

ECU was honored by the Department of Defense with the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C. The highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve, ECU was one of 15 employers nationwide to receive this year’s Freedom Award at a ceremony attended by members of Congress, senior military officials and business industry leaders.

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This story appeared originally in the Oct. 29, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/poe/2010/1010/October-2010-Archives.cfm.