KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A UT nursing instructor is back home after spending more than six months in Afghanistan. Capt. Teresa Kennard, who goes by Tess, has been training future nurses at the University of Tennessee since 1998. But she's been in the Navy since 1979 and when they needed her last fall she answered the call.
Capt. Kennard was greeted by a crowd of friends, family and co-workers as she arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport Friday night.
"They would send me Christmas decorations and Halloween decorations, cards from the students. It really meant a lot. And to be here to welcome me home, it is just really nice," Kennard said.
During her tour of duty in Kandahar, Afghanistan, she was the officer in charge of the Warrior Recovery Center.
"We would get the young service members who were either in an IED explosion or gunshot wounds," she said. "These were patients that were my children's ages and younger so it really was rewarding. I felt like I got to minister to them as a nurse and as a naval officer and sometimes as a mother too."
Her family, including husband David, a Marine helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, is relieved to have her back on American soil.
"We're awful proud of her, immensely proud of her for doing what she's done and gone through," he said.
Her son Nathan is also a former Marine.
"It's Afghanistan. Anything can happen over there so I was definitely glad when I finally heard she flew out of there," he said.
Her senior nursing students are happy she's back in time for their graduation.
"She's one of the best clinical instructors I've ever had. She's one of those people who makes you want to do good in clinical not just for her, but because she wants you to become a better nurse," said Chelsea Carter.
While Capt. Kennard is grateful for this show of support, she said the real heroes are the wounded warriors she left behind.
"They're the ones that I feel have sacrificed enormously and I was really honored to be able to take care of them," she said.
Capt. Kennard will be back teaching at UT this August. She has a few more years in the Navy reserves.