9/11 Inspires Service, Studies and Career

Blog | 03/11/2015

Tillman Scholar Greg Freisinger’s cutting-edge research in biomechanical engineering at The Ohio State University is helping injured veterans. Learn more about his story.

From the windows of his high school cafeteria on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, Greg Freisinger watched the smoke and debris envelope New York City on 9/11.

“It was a defining moment,” said Freisinger, who was considering a military career at the time. “Once (9/11) happened, I thought, ‘Yeah, I really want to do this.’”

At the same time, Pat Tillman was enjoying a successful career in the NFL. Like Freisinger, he was inspired to do more after 9/11. So, he put football on hold and joined the Army. In 2004, he was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Freisinger was in the Army ROTC at Georgia Tech and working toward a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Upon graduating, he was commissioned as an engineer officer in the Army and, after eight months of training, was assigned to an engineering battalion in Hawaii. During his four-year tour, he earned a Bronze Star for service in Iraq and, in Thailand, worked with Thai soldiers to build four schools in remote villages.

Today, Freisinger is conducting cutting-edge research in biomechanics at Ohio State. Specifically, he’s working on tools and procedures designed to improve the outcomes patients experience after knee-replacement surgery. He’s on target to get his PhD in May and then hopes to apply his skills to assist wounded soldiers and others. And Pat Tillman is helping him do it.

The Pat Tillman Foundation formed after the football star’s death, and in 2008, it established the Tillman Military Scholar program. It’s a prestigious and highly competitive award that provides financial assistance to student-veterans, military service members and military spouses working toward their degrees. More than 7,500 people applied to be Tillman Military Scholars in 2014, and only 60 were selected to share $1.4 million in scholarships. Freisinger was one of the recipients — and the first to study at Ohio State.

“It seemed to fit what I was all about … where I wanted to go after grad school and all of the community service I’ve done while in school,” Freisinger said.

He said being a Tillman Scholar has helped him focus on leadership and fortified his commitment to community service. Since receiving the honor, Freisinger attended the Pat Tillman Leadership Summit in Chicago last June and is working with Ohio State’s Office of Military and Veterans Services to help introduce more veteran-led service programs at the university.