Renee Prince wasn’t sure what path she wanted to pursue after high school, but helping people was high on her list. While her friends were busy senior year deciding which college to attend, Renee was trying to figure out what direction her future should take. As fate would have it, a United States Army recruiter visited her St. Clair Shores high school that year, and she was certain she had found her calling.
“At that point,” Renee says, “I realized I wanted to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve.”
Renee’s maternal grandparents had served in the Air Force — her grandmother as a nurse — making the idea of a military future well within her comfort zone. So, in 1995, with a fresh high school diploma under her belt, Renee left for basic training as a surgical technician for the U.S. Army, first at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, and then at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas.
When her training ended in 1996, Renee applied for a surgical tech job at the University of Michigan, where she’s worked ever since in a variety of positions, including her current roles as Nurse Manager of the University of Michigan Health System Hospital Operating Rooms and Interim Nurse Manager of the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center Operating Rooms/Post Anesthesia Care Unit.
Renee’s surgical tech training opened the door for her to pursue a nursing degree at Washtenaw Community College in 2001. “I was in nursing school on September 11, 2001, and at that point, I knew I’d be deployed,” she remembers.
In 2003, Renee went to Afghanistan as part of 20-person mobile operating team, serving as officer in charge of the operating room for the 948th surgical team. She says the work she did there changed her life and helped fulfill her desire to give back. “I wanted to be there to help people. And serving in the Army fulfilled that part of me.”
The Army has truly shaped her life, Renee says. She met her husband, Chris Prince, a former Air Force firefighter, while in the military, and many of her fellow service people are now like family to her. Renee’s military experience also led to her decision to pursue a nursing degree, which earned her the title of Major in the Army. She is quick to point out the role others have played in her success, saying: “Without the support of wonderful family and friends, I don’t think I would have been as successful.”
Although retiring in April after 20 years of service, Renee still feels the tug of Army life, admitting that leaving it behind has been “bittersweet.” But she loves being home with her husband and three daughters – ages 3, 6 and 7 —on a full-time basis. “It’s time to focus on them,” she says.
“I was very fortunate to serve in the Army and have never regretted my decision,” Renee says. “I felt it was my responsibility to do it. Everyone has a choice and that was mine.”
Take the next step:
The University of Michigan offers a variety of events to educate and celebrate the experiences and sacrifices of those who have served our country, including:
- Raising the Flag, Nov. 11 at 8:00 am, U-M Central Campus Diag
- Gulf War/Cold War Panel, Nov. 11 at 10:00 am, Michigan Union – Wolverine Room
- U-M Student Veteran Panel, Nov. 11 at 2:00 pm, Michigan Union – Kuenzel Room
- Service Above Self—Honoring Our Veterans gala event, Nov. 11 at 6:00 pm, Hill Auditorium
- Lowering the Flag, Nov. 11 at 5:00 pm, U-M Central Campus Diag
- Korean War Veterans Panel, Nov. 12 at 10 am, Michigan Union – Pond Room
- Veterans of Color Symposium, Nov. 12 at 2:00 pm, Michigan Union – Anderson Room
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.