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WVU nursing professor, veteran to be first female honored at local Memorial Day observance

This weekend, the nation will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day. West Virginia University School of Nursing’s Dr. Sandra “Sam” Cotton will be one of two veterans to be honored during Star City’s annual Memorial Day observance. 

Cotton, a Lt. Col (ret.), USAF Nurse Corps, is a clinical associate professor at the WVU School of Nursing, and will be the first female veteran honored during the annual observance.

Cotton will deliver remarks on the importance of Memorial Day in honoring the thousands of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and in particular, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Iraq war. Cotton will join Col. G.W. Dunbar, who is also being recognized at the ceremony.

Cotton, a veteran with more than 34 years of service with the United States Air Force, was a chief nurse and examiner flight nurse with the West Virginia Air National Guard where she served 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.

“I am truly humbled to take part in remembering the thousands of veterans who lost their lives in the line of duty while bravely serving this country. I look forward to participating in this Memorial Day service and being able to help tell the story for the ones who did not get to come home,” said Cotton.  

Cotton 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. She 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 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.”