Vinton honors Major Pruitt with Memorial Service at WBHS
VINTON–Major Jeffrey Pruitt served his country for 20 years in the military; he then served his community by spending the remainder of his life inspiring students to follow in his footsteps.
“His legacy will live on through the Air Force Junior ROTC program,” said Dr. Richard Turner, principal of William Byrd High School.
His community, family, current and former students, friends, and colleagues paid tribute to his life of service in a stately memorial service in the football stadium at William Byrd High School on October 11.
Pruitt was honored in the ceremony planned by his students, Senior Master Sergeant Paul Richardson, and Vicky Carrell, administrative assistant to Dr. Turner, and coordinated by Lotz Funeral Home of Vinton.
Cadets not only from WBHS, but from other area schools, including William Fleming, Patrick Henry and Franklin County High Schools participated in the memorial service. Students in the Jr. ROTC programs at E. C. Glass High School in Lynchburg and from Monticello High School in Charlottesville came to pay their respects.
Many of Pruitt’s JROTC students had arrived on campus on Monday morning, following his death on Saturday, wearing their dress cadet uniforms.
“Cadets showed up on Monday in uniform to pay their respects to the Major when our usual days to dress are Wednesdays and Thursdays,” said Richardson.
Pruitt had battled lung cancer for 12 years. He was 48 years old.
Described as a “man of deep faith”, during the ceremony his family and friends remembered him as a man who had lived out his favorite passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
Pruitt grew up in Marion, Virginia, graduating from Marion Senior High School in 1982. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in 1987, and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force.
He was stationed at bases in North Dakota, New Mexico, Alabama, Florida, and Colorado in various Space Command positions during the course of his career. While in the military, he completed his Master’s Degree in Space Studies at the University of North Dakota, and also served as an ROTC instructor at Clemson University.
Pruitt retired from the Air Force in 2008 and became the senior instructor for the Jr. ROTC program at WBHS.
“He was constantly thinking of ways to make the program better,” said Turner.
Students and colleagues spoke of Pruitt as a motivating force in their lives.
“His bar was not low,” said alumnus Joe Bradshaw. “He inspired me to do better things with my life. He had faith in me and believed in me. He expected you to do great things.”
Pruitt was married to his wife Kelly for twenty-two years and has one son, Jacob, who is currently a senior at Roanoke College. Jacob Pruitt plans to pursue a career in the Air Force and hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an officer. He completed his senior year of high school at William Byrd in the cadet program.
“Major Pruitt affected the lives of America’s young adults as he mentored high school students,” said Brigadier General Van Cleef. “He was the epitomy of selfless service.”