Pennsylvania Western University education professor Dr. Susan Morris-Rutledge has worn many hats in her career, but perhaps none more important than as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.

After enlisting from 1992 to 1998, Morris-Rutledge re-upped in 2001, serving overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a specialist (E-4) in the 323rd Chemical Company out of Sioux Falls, S.D. While deployed, her family also served back home.

“My son (Jordan) was five at the time, and I was a single parent, so I had to give up legal custody,” she said. “But I never waivered in my decision to go. It was painful for me and for Jordan. I didn’t get to see him again until he was seven.”

Her sacrifices will be honored by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Gov. Josh Shapiro as part of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s Female Veterans Day celebration at 11 a.m. March 29 in the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg.

Morris-Rutledge joined the faculty at PennWest California in 2011 and is the campus ESL program coordinator. She also serves on PennWest’s Presidential Commission of Veteran and Military Affairs to advance the university’s goal of being a friendly campus for military veterans and their families.

Morris-Rutledge said the recognition is an honor, and she is glad that her service can highlight the sacrifices of women who choose to serve in the armed forces.

“They never really think about women (in the military) in pop culture,” she said. “This past April, we went to Arlington (National Cemetery). We spent a good hour or so looking at the women’s history memorial there, and the different stories of the women who contributed was just incredible. At some point, we have to stop making women prove their service and allow them to serve.”

As for Morris-Rutledge’s service, she believes that the military made her the professor and advocate she is today.

“Everything I learned in the military made me a better teacher and advocate. When you see some of the things I’ve seen, it shaped what I do and how I do it. All those things come together to make me who I am. It’s an honor to be recognized for that part of what made me who I am.”