Amanda Marr is as funny as she is fierce. She looks like she could probably beat you arm wrestling or smoke you in a foot race. She laughs easily and she tells good stories (wait until you hear about her latest grizzly bear hunt). But there's a steely edge to her. She exudes determination. She's a U.S. Army veteran, a student, a wife, a mother, a fallen soldier widow and a born-and-raised Alaska girl.
Amanda is currently powering her way toward a nursing degree at UAA after serving as an Army medic and weathering some rough road. This isn't her first time in a nursing program. She left Alaska after high school to study nursing in Arizona where she met and married her late husband, Justin Gallegos. When he joined the Army, they pulled up stakes to move to his assigned base in Georgia, leaving Amanda one semester shy of her degree. With the added responsibility of a little guy—they welcomed their son, MacAidan, in 2003—she started over again in a new nursing program at Columbus Technical College and again had the finish line in her sights when Justin was injured during a deployment to Iraq. He returned home in need of care, so she suspended her studies to look after him.
Once Justin was well enough to be deployed again, Amanda joined the Army herself.
"It was ultimately because when I asked him, 'What brought you home? What kept you alive?' he said, 'I had really good medics and I had really good nurses.'" She laughs when she recalls his response to her enlistment as a medic: "He was furiously offended that I had done that." Why would she want to join him in being shot at and in danger? But there was no changing her mind.
Amanda became a Mike 6—a combat medic licensed professional nurse (LPN). She worked in intensive care units, in burn units, in labor and delivery, eventually becoming the ward master of Labor and Delivery at a hospital in Fort Carson, Colo. "As an LPN for the Army, you can do anything that your supervisor allows you to do or encourages you to do. If it's a lifesaving measure, it's what you do," she says, explaining that the military scope of practice is intentionally flexible and broad.
Halfway through her own military contract, Amanda received the news that Sgt. Justin Gallegos had been killed in action. On Oct. 3, 2009, Sgt. Gallegos fell in a firefight with insurgents at his outpost in Afghanistan along with seven other soldiers. Their story is told, in part, by Jake Tapper, ABC's senior White House correspondent, in his new book, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor."
THIS WEEK AT UAA
>>> Biennial Faculty Art Exhibition through Dec. 12, Kimura Gallery.
Includes these artists:
>>> Former ADN photojournalist Jim Lavrakas talks about his new book, "Snap Decisions." Nov. 19, 5-7 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore. Free, light snacks and free parking.
>>> Calligraphy exhibition and presentation, Nov. 19, 6-8 pm, LIB 307.
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