Larsen, Wis. (WFRV) – A graduate of Neenah High School in 1998, Steve Freund knew he wasn’t yet ready for college; He wanted a different path.
“I decided, sure I’ll join the military. I was originally only going to join for four years but I decided to stay in for 20,” Freund said.
It was the father of Freund’s friend who talked the both of them into joining the military.
“Once he told me that it wasn’t like that, it wasn’t all staying in barracks with drill sergeants yelling at you all day long, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad,'” Freund recalled.
Freund enlisted in the Army with his high school sweetheart and future wife Katherine, and was stationed at Fort Wainwright in Alaska as a Chemical Operations Specialist.
Freund however, had a different job in mind.
“I decided to put in a packet to become a helicopter pilot,” he said.
Freund was accepted to the program, but was sent on his first deployment to Iraq before he could start training.
After completing flight school and Warrant Officer Training, Freund would be deployed to Iraq twice more, but it was his first deployment to Afghanistan that he remembers well.
He piloted helicopters, saving lives.
“I was with a medevac unit, medevac meaning medical evacuation and that was honestly a very fulfilling deployment. It felt good actually being able to go help people out,” said Freund.
Freund retired from the military in 2019, after 20 years of service. He and his highschool sweetheart are happily married.
“I loved flying but for a couple of different reasons I decided not to pursue flying in the civilian world,” Freund said.
Freund has always had an interest in the environment and science, that’s why after retiring, he went to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to pursue his environmental science degree. He’s also the president of the Student Veteran Association, a position he’s held for the last year.
“Most veterans are non-traditional students because they’ve been in the military for at least four years before they come to college so it’s a slightly different experience for us than it is for someone straight out of high school who takes the traditional path,” Freund said.
“So, you have to have people who help you along the way and I would love to be able to be that help for student veterans,” he said.
Freund echoes what many of his fellow veterans say, there’s no bond like that of the military.
“I like the feeling of continued camaraderie because in the military you get a lot of that and now being students the SVA is the continuation of that. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the military and I love what I’m doing now, too,” said Freund.
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