Karen (Fletcher) Slawter grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky, with her parents and her older brother. Middlesboro has the distinction of being built entirely in a basin between mountains formed as a meteorite crater. Karen experienced a very active childhood, skating, horseback riding, cheerleading, dancing, singing, and playing the piano. In high school she enjoyed speech, drama, and English class, passions she studied in college at Eastern Kentucky University. During her freshman year, she met her husband, Sonny Slawter, in a dance class, and the two married in June 1968. After marrying Sonny, Karen traveled with him to Ft. Sill and Ft. Polk, but reenrolled in Eastern Kentucky University after he deployed to Vietnam. She finished her student teaching, graduating with the class of 1970. Karen enjoyed the Army environment at Ft. Sill and loved the Wives’ Club. Their daughter Paige was born at Ft. Polk in a repurposed Army barracks. When Sonny deployed, Karen returned to Kentucky and began student teaching in Lexington. She remembers that the nightly news was the worst part of the day, but she and Sonny kept in touch through letters, reel-to-reel audio tapes, and occasional MARS calls. In March 1970, she flew to Hawaii to meet Sonny for R&R. On the trip, Continental Airlines lost her bag, but the airline reimbursed Karen for what she had to purchase. After Sonny returned from Vietnam, he entered the University of Cincinnati while Karen remained in Richmond, Kentucky, for a year teaching, and the next year they moved to Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. Karen taught until 1977, when she decided to remain at home to take care of her children (John was born in 1973). Later, Karen decided to return to teaching, earning a Masters’ Degree at Northern Kentucky University and teaching as an adjunct at NKU for five years before that turned into a full-time position. She taught speech for 38 years at Northern Kentucky University.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood, her college education, and her experiences as an Army spouse and student teacher while her husband was deployed. She describes how she and Sonny communicated while he was in Vietnam. She shares how she continued teaching while raising four children. She reflects on the pride she feels for her husband’s and two sons’ service to the nation. Watch her husband’s interview – Sonny Slawter.