Beyond the Call of Duty

A naval nurse has made a career—and a difference—out of serving the needs of others

Mikey Tnasuttimonkol for TIME

U.S. Navy Commander Maureen Pennington in the healing garden at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California.

Regardless of what we feel about the war in Iraq, most Americans feel a deep connection to the men and women in uniform who are there fighting for us. But we don't often think about the people who are caring for them on our behalf, the nurses and doctors who are putting their lives at risk to tend the wounded. People like U.S. Navy Commander Maureen Pennington.

Pennington, 45, is the first nurse to lead a surgical company during combat operations, and her work in Iraq, along with her previous two decades of active duty, offers living testimony to the difference...

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