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Military experience gives veteran push to overcome struggles

He’s jumped out of more than 530 airplanes and hauled a 150-pound rucksack on his back for 20 years. Now, it’s tough for Steve Bauman, 45, to get out of bed in the morning. But, he does much more than that.

Along with supporting his wife and four kids, Bauman has joined many other veterans and service members in making the decision to go back to school.

“It’s been a huge challenge for me,” said Bauman, who retired from the special operations unit as an airborne ranger in 2000.

Bauman spent the first few years of retirement working blue-collar jobs between spans of unemployment. He stayed home for two years raising his youngest son, but Bauman needed something to keep his mind busy.

“I just couldn’t take it,” Bauman said. “I told my wife, ‘I got to do something. My mind is going nuts.’”

Bauman applied and registered for classes at NDSU, but after feeling unwelcomed by faculty and staff, he decided to attend MSUM. He is now a sophomore majoring in social work.

“My brain doesn’t function like a normal student’s would because I was blown up a couple times, so I have shrapnel in the back of my head and throughout my whole body,” Bauman said.

MSUM has given him the opportunity to receive the same education a traditional student would. Faculty and staff have helped and encouraged him along the way, but Bauman still faces many challenges.

“It’s tough for me to function and tough for me to think,” Bauman said. “I haven’t missed any school this year, but last year was a real challenge for me.”

Bauman’s doctors were constantly switching his medications, which led to illness and many absences.

It hasn’t been easy for Bauman, but he enjoys going to school because it’s getting him out of the house and closer to achieving his ultimate goal of giving back to the community. Bauman wants to counsel other veterans that are facing the same challenges he’s faced.

“When you retire with 20 years, you can’t sit at home. You have to do something,” Bauman said. “I was basically a mercenary, and there are no jobs out there in the world for mercenaries.”

Bauman is considered a million dollar soldier because the military has spent so much money training him for specialized missions.

“My ID card says, ‘indefinite’ on it, so I never get out of the military,” Bauman said.

He was the first one in Bosnia, and his platoon got all the ambassadors out of Liberia and out of the embassy.

“I’ve done a lot of things,” Bauman said. “I’ve pulled border duty on the wall. I was actually on the wall when the wall was up, and I was walking in the ditches shooting people when they tried to cross the border.”

Everything Bauman has witnessed in war has made him fearless.

“I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid of someone shooting me,” Bauman said. “I’m not afraid of anything.”

Bauman said every man that’s of age should join the military for at least two or three years because it makes him more of a man.

“The military is horrible. It’s tough. It’s demeaning, degrading. I mean, I laid out in 20-below weather for a year and a half sometimes,” Bauman said. “But, it just gives you more of a push to get a degree and make something of yourself.”

Seth Goddeyne, a senior history major, joined the national guard after high school and agrees that the military pushes one’s limits.

“You realize that you’re capable of a lot more than you probably thought you were before you did it,” Goddeyne said.

BY JASMINE MAKI
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