GRAFTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia University nursing professor, and veteran of the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, will participate in Monday's 148th Memorial Day Parade in Grafton, the nation's longest ongoing Memorial Day observance.

“So many veterans have given their lives in service to our country, and our troops continue to put their lives on the line for freedom, including Grafton’s very own Staff Sgt. (Staff Sgt. Anissa Shuttleworth) Shero. I am honored to ride in her memory and be a part of such a rich tradition honoring our veterans,” said Sandra “Sam” Cotton, Lt. Col (ret.), U.S.  Air Force Nurse Corps, and an associate professor at the WVU School of Nursing.

Shero, a Grafton native who enlisted in 1992, was the first Air Force woman to die in Afghanistan, and the second West Virginian killed there as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.

Cotton served in the Air Force for more than 34 years and was a chief nurse and examiner flight nurse with the West Virginia Air National in Gulf Wars I and II. During that time, she was part of two tours with the 379th and 332nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons in Balad, Iraq, where she served as a commander and senior flight nurse, flying and caring for wounded troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany.

In addition to her military service, Cotton is a clinical assistant professor and director of faculty practice in the School of Nursing. She earned an associate’s degree from Hocking College, a bachelor of science and doctorate of nursing practice, both from WVU, and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland.

"Sam," as she is known, is responsible for leading faculty practice designed to support WVU’s research, teaching and service missions. As an adult nurse practitioner, she also sees patients and precepts students in the WVU Healthcare internal medicine practice and a local free clinic.

In 2007 she became a distinguished practitioner in the National Academy of Practice; has served as a nurse consultant and tireless advocate for APNs in West Virginia, and nationally, as Helene Fuld Academic Leadership and Penn Macy Academic Nursing Practice Fellows. In 2012, she received the DNP student Excellence and Alumni Leadership awards. In 2014, Dr. Cotton was named the American Association of Nurse Practitioners “Nurse Practitioner Clinical Excellence Award of the Year for the state of West Virginia.”

For more information: Tara Curtis, 304.581.1772