GREENVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) – Greenville’s Gregg Payne recalls holding an AR-15 at a young age, the adrenaline of learning to fire the weapon.
For Payne, the military was a family affair: Growing up in Southern California, both of his parents were in the Air Force.
His foster brothers, the Marine Corps.
After graduating high school in 1990, Gregg and his twin brother Bryan would continue the tradition.
“I woke up one day, because I had been watching everything with the conflict growing in the Middle East, and just decided that I woke up one day and wanted to go serve in the Marine Corps,” Payne recalled.
“My foster brothers that lived with us when I was younger were both marines, so that basically helped solidify the idea that I wanted to join the Marine Corps. And then I looked over at my twin brother and said, ‘Hey, do you want to join the Marine Corps and go over to the Middle East?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah,'” Payne said.
Bryan ended up becoming a field radio operator, and Gregg a base communications operator at Twentynine Palms.
“I had top-secret, confidential secret security clearances. I basically worked at a (communications) center on 24-hour shifts, I can’t talk about anything beyond that,” said Payne.
But Payne can talk about the experience he gained during his two years in the Marines, and after moving to the Appleton area, how it set him up for success as the co-owner of FreedomWear Co, and SillyToast Designs in Greenville.
They specialize in screen printing and embroidery but also in giving back to the Appleton community.
“As we’ve continued to grow the business, we were able to financially support some of the local schools, whether it was donating money for a new scoreboard, paying off student lunches for the parents that couldn’t afford to pay them off, buying bicycles for kids that were less fortunate, becoming major sponsors for specific events for kids, and just being an all-around community member,” Payne said.
“Giving back to the community as much as possible because without the community we wouldn’t be an entity, and it’s like that for everybody,” he said.
You’ll see FreedomWear Co. gear at many of the local colleges like St. Norbert and UW-Oshkosh, and their bike program is at Einstein Middle School in Appleton.
But Payne says he wants his impact to go beyond the branding.
“The fundamentals that I was given in the military, even though they’re tough, it makes you realize how important you are as an individual,” Payne said.
“If you’ve got a talent that you can give back to the community, don’t take it for granted, don’t take advantage of it, take it and run. I feel that if you do good things for yourself and the community that you live in, it’s cyclical, it’s going to come back to you,” he said.