U.S. Army first lieutenant Victor Prato ’15 suffered a serious injury on Monday, Nov. 13, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Three other U.S. soldiers were wounded.
According to former 82nd Airborne Division officer Zach Beecher ‘13, Prato was awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge, and is currently being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Prato is now in stable condition.
“Victor is a First Lieutenant in the Army’s Engineering Branch assigned to the 127th Brigade Engineering Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C.,” Beecher explained. “He was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force and Operation Enduring Freedom as part of nearly 11,000 U.S. troops there now.”
Beecher also explained that it is highly plausible that Prato was involved in route clearance when he was attacked.
Sam Rob ‘18, who was a first year in the University's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps when Prato was a senior, also talked about route clearance and his own experience with the task.
“Victor wanted to be an engineer and the engineer regiment in the Army is largely [involved in] route clearance, which is a dangerous job,” Rob explained. “I trained with a route clearance company in Fort Polk, [La.] this summer and I talked to a lot of guys who were blown up, so it’s more than just infantry who are in harm’s way.”
Rob also praised Prato’s enthusiasm. Prato was always passionate, Rob said, about serving his country and what he was doing with ROTC.
Prato, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, also played varsity football at the University.
Matt Giannotti ’18, Prato’s mentee and a current senior in ROTC, said Prato is a “generous human being who was generous with his time, vocal, happy, and understood the profession.”
When describing his relationship to Prato, Giannotti remembered when he was at Fort Dix, N.J. and Prato came into his room late at night to check that he had all of his gear for the next day.
“Vic painstakingly took the the time to make sure everyone was okay,” Giannotti said.
Rob said that he looks up to Prato.
“He was an engineer and he influenced me and my career choices,” said Rob. “Victor had the incredible capacity to balance his Princeton academic schedule, ROTC, and being a varsity athlete.”
The Princeton ROTC community is making a determined effort to support Prato. Rob explained that Prato has a strong support base and that his healing will just take time. In addition to reaching out to Prato personally, current and past ROTC members of the the University are writing get well cards. Some University alumni have already visited Prato at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to Giannotti, Major General Cavoli of the 25th Infantry Division also visited Prato at the medical center.
Rob explained that becoming part of the Army naturally comes with some uncertainty.
“Victor’s experience reminds me of what is at stake and of just being able to live up to his example,” said Rob. “He’s handled it so well, and he is a great example of someone that’s put it all out there and accepted that it is what he wants to do. Victor’s injury reminds us of the sacrifices that Princeton cadets make right after college.”
For Rob and other ROTC students, the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is very real. However, Rob explained, the war is sometimes reduced to a foreign policy discussion in academia.
“We have to remember that there are people like Victor on the ground,” Rob added, pointing to the importance of decreasing the civil-military gap that seems prevalent today.
“It is important to realize what American soldiers are doing every day, the sacrifices they are making in Afghanistan, and the cost they pay for what we enjoy here at Princeton and in America,” Rob said.
Monetary contributions to Fisher House, a home for parents and loved ones to stay if their loved ones are killed or injured, are welcomed by the Prato family.