Fred Freeman enlisted in the United States Army after attending one semester at the University of Miami back in 1965. He said the Vietnam conflict was just ramping up at that time and would continue to do so while he was in the military for three years.
He said he joined, “Because I really felt it was normal for a young man to have a military obligation.” He noted that his father had been in the military and his parents, and their community were very patriotic. They celebrated holidays like “Lincoln’s Birthday,” ” Washington’s Birthday,” “Decoration Day,” and others each year.
“Patriotism was politically non-partisan and celebrated as non-working holidays, throughout the marketplace and in educational settings,” he said.
Freeman was quick to point out that while he was in Vietnam for a year, he didn’t serve in a combat unit.
“Not all of those in the military meet the enemy face-to-face,” Freeman said. “For each one of the troops in combat, there are five who provide logistical support. Responsibilities such as food preparation, supply storage and delivery, transportation, equipment maintenance, plus personnel and payroll administration are carried out by military men and women who do not see combat.”
He was one of those support personnel for his entire time in the Army, though, he, like all enlisted people, trained as though he would be on the front lines.
“The unit to which I was assigned in Vietnam unloaded cargo from ships off the coast, brought it to the shore on ‘Mike Boats,’ and trucked those needed supplies to secured storage compounds,” Freeman recalled. HE also served with an Honor Guard for a short time.
His third year, he was stationed stateside as a personnel sergeant at Savanna Army Depot in northwestern Illinois. It was there, he said, where he saw what he liked the most about the military.
“I think I appreciated that you could count on people. Whatever your job was, like I was personnel director my third year i the Army. We were stationed at the Savannah Army Depot which was a nuclear weapons manufacturing. Everybody there had to have at least a secret clearance or above. And my job was to ensure that anybody that transferred to that base qualified for a secret clearance. I was able to rely on the other people in that office that worked under me to do their jobs. You could count on people. When people given an assignment, they followed through on the assignment.”
That was a lesson that he carried through into his civilian life. Of course, he said, he probably started learning that as a Boy Scout and at home while watching his parents stand up to the commitments that they made in their community.
After his service in the military, Freeman got married and returned to college.
“The financial benefits I received through the “GI Bill” covered many of my college expenses. Also, the VA loan for which I qualified not only helped lower the down payment and interest rate on our first home, it ensured that this home met superior construction guidelines. The educational benefits carried me through my bachelor and master degrees and lay the foundation for future endeavors and even more success in college,” he explained.
Eventually, he would earn degrees from Broward Community College, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Illinois, and Baylor University. He has certifications from the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas. He said during all of that higher education, he still drew upon the training and experience he received 50 years ago during his time in the Army.
He obtained a Doctor of Education from Baylor University and became a public school orchestra director. He eventually retired from his career in education after serving in administration at the Sherman Independent School District. Then he got a call saying the person who was going to teach orchestra had left the district in July before the new school year. He agreed he would return and teach that subject at district campuses while they found a new teacher. Teaching music was another thing that ran in his family’s blood. His father owned a music store in Florida and Freeman gave lessons at the store. He continued to do from his own home even after he retired from education.
In his retirement, he worked with Sherman Community Players Board and is a violinist with the Sherman Symphony Orchestra.
Looking back on his military career, he said, one of the things he appreciated most was that it allowed him to continue to be what he was raised to be.
“I appreciate that in my time (in the military) there were military chaplains and you could attend worship. You could carry a Bible and people did. You could be a regular person while you were serving your country in the military, especially in logistical support. We were regular people serving our country, doing our job everyday.”