Retired Army student aspires to career in healthcare

Fred Rowe provides sniper fire during an insurgent complex attack in Baiji, Iraq in 2007. Rowe was wounded twice that day. Photo provided by Fred Rowe.

Srijita Chattopadhyay

“To see life; see the world.” The  motto of LIFE magazine speaks volumes to the life story of Fred Rowe.

Rowe, 29, is a non-traditional student at WKU completing his undergraduate degree in health care administration. Rowe, however, is more than a non-traditional student — he is also a retired U.S. Army man. 

“I dropped out of Western in 2002 — after my first year — to go fight,” Rowe said. “I have a very patriotic family and I just felt like it was my duty and wanted to do my part for my country.” 

Rowe toured in both the Afghanistan and Iraq, and his experiences changed with time.

“I guess you are excited the first time, but after you are deployed multiple times and wounded a couple of times, it is not exciting anymore,” he said. “It is not fun coming back to school as a ‘non-traditional’ student, but it’s a lot better than living on the side of the mountain in Afghanistan,” Rowe said with a slight grin.

Rowe served as the Staff Sergeant (Promotable) E-6 for about eight years before retiring in October 2012 due to multiple combat injuries. 

Although coping with life away from the battlefield was not easy, it was simplified with the help of the Student Veterans Alliance (SVA) at WKU. Rowe is not only a student veteran but also the Director of Operation at the SVA. 

“We provide a resource, a place for other veterans to come with their problems and allow us to try to help them, get the problem taken care of, collaborate with the issue, and maybe, if there are enough people having the same problem, then we bring it up to the administration of the university and try to get it taken care of,” Rowe said. 

Rowe gathers a great amount of support and strength from his family, especially his wife Jacqueline Rowe. “I am really proud of him going back to school,” she said. “And I am also extremely proud of his service to our country.”

“I really respect his desire to get a college education.  He wants to be able to provide for me and our future family and be at home every night for dinner, which I really appreciate.”

Being a part of a strict regime for eight years, Rowe admits that he misses the order and the discipline. But at the same time his exposure to a defined way of life makes him feel more experienced, in a classroom full of students. 

“I have really been impressed by his discipline, when it comes to homework and studying- he takes it very seriously,” Jacqueline said.

Within 50 days of retiring, he had re-enrolled at WKU to kick-start his life with a new perspective. 

“I have a retirement; I don’t need to get another job,” he said. “But, I did because I have the time to work, to give something back to the society. That is why I look forward to working in the health care field,” he said. “I think it is something I will enjoy doing for the rest of my life.”