Region 8 Man Working to Change Iraq

May 4, 2004 -- Posted at 4:05 p.m. CDT

KENNETT --With the recent daring escape of Iraqi truck driver Thomas Hamill, more and more attention has been focused on the danger of U.S. civilians working overseas.

One man in Region 8 has traded in the Mississippi River barge for the Iraqi sand barge.
Sherrye Pruett and her sister-in-law Cindy Henderson flip through a newspaper talking about her husband Robert 'Oney' Pruett, who is currently in Iraq.
"That's my favorite saying, 'I'm proud to be an American and I'm proud to be able to help with the next generations of young warriors such as myself'...he says that a lot," said Henderson.

"He means that too," said Pruett. "When September 11th happened, after that he said I want to do something."

Pruett spent four years in the Air Force in Vietnam and the last 29 years working on the Mississippi River with the Army Corps of Engineers.
"He's very patriotic and he's told us that he's proud to be an American," said Sherrye.
And when the Corps needed volunteers to go to Iraq, Pruett jumped at the chance.
"He immediately volunteered, I didn't think they would take him, but they did," laughed Sherrye.
Pruett, 53, told his family that he works with computers and paperwork for the military...
"He doesn't want us to worry, because Oney's like that. He's like, 'oh, I'm fine. I'll be fine over here,' and we found out yesterday that he's driving convoys. We have no idea," said Henderson.
"I think of it as if he's on the river, instead of in Iraq in Bahdad...but it's tough. We pray for him everyday and I'm sure he'll be fine, and we pray for all of the service men and women in Iraq," said Sherrye.
But Pruett isn't just serving the Corps, he's working to change Iraq.
"He's involved with an orphanage there. He and some of the people that he works with have got involved in getting school supplies for these children, air conditioners, toys, gym sets and that kind of thing," said Sherrye. "That's something they are all real excited about, helping these children who've been so affected by this, those who have lost their families."
"I expect this of Oney, he's a very responsible person, he always has been. He's very protective of his family. It did not surprise me one bit for him to not tell me or his mother, you know, what he was really doing. Oney's just like that, he doesn't want anyone to worry," said Henderson.

Pruett does get to talk with his family via e-mail and on the telephone. They expect him to return home just before the Fourth of July and are planning a huge party for him.