Family shares multigenerational military legacy

Sky Fought

The year is 1942: World War II rages full-force and the Pacific theater begins to heat up. The United States and allies were discussing the best way to attack Germany while Japan and its ally, Thailand, had almost fully conquered smaller countries in Europe and Asia.

During this time, Don Freer enlisted to fight for his country. Coming from a long line of servicemen dating back to the 1600s, he decided he might get drafted and wanted it to ultimately be his decision.

Freer became a B-17 pilot after going through cadet training. He began training in 1943 and finished in February of 1944. During his time as a B-17 pilot, Freer went on 26 missions, mostly as a co-pilot, flying 11 different airplanes with eight different crews.

“Sometimes it was exciting,” Freer said. “But many times it was dangerous.”

Freer trained cadets and flew missions as a first pilot. On one mission, Freer and his crew were flying through Berlin and were hit by a shell.

“It knocked off pieces of our plane, leaving one engine,” Freer said. “The plane was going down and I made sure everyone jumped off before I got off myself.”

Freer also spent time as a prisoner of war in Germany. Liberated by the Russian army, Freer was stuck overseas until the end of the war.

Freer arrived back in the U.S. and took some time to recuperate. He ended up attending Ohio State University in 1946 and studying engineering. 

He later moved to northern Ohio after having many jobs and started a family. He had a daughter who would grow up to marry Karl Boye, who would also join the military. 

Before graduating from Kent State in 1983, Karl Boye was sworn into the Navy. He joined the Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) in June of 1984 with the intent of becoming a Navy pilot.

Boye completed AOCS, was commissioned as an officer and two weeks later started primary flight training near Pensacola, Florida. 

“I was very excited to be flying those Beechcraft T-34C trainers,” Boye said. 

Boye explained that what happened next completely changed his plans. The Navy requires an annual physical 30 days before or after an officer’s birthday. Boye had undergone an extensive examination at the beginning of AOCS but was still required to do the physical. 

“I was disqualified on an eye exam and my dream of flying for the military came to an end,” Boye said. “If I couldn’t fly, I didn’t want to stay.”

He opted for a release from active duty to return to civilian life and pursue a career in aviation. He became a flight instructor for a few years to gain the flight hours and experience required to fly for a commuter airline.

Midway Connection hired him in 1987, and in 1989, Piedmont Airlines hired him for his current job. Boye went on to have a family with Freer’s daughter, who continued the family’s military legacy.

Kristen Boye, a senior aeronautical studies major, knew in seventh grade she wanted to fly planes.

“I grew up meeting my grandpa’s fellow wingmen during reunions and going to airshows with my dad,” Boye said. “I know I don’t want a regular desk job. I want to fly.”

Boye joined Air Force ROTC on the Kent campus and came to school with a technical scholarship that required her to study something she was not passionate about.

Boye started as a computer science major, but as the classes got harder, it became difficult for her. She switched her major to architecture and due to a lack of sleep, she was still running into the same problem.

“I wanted to be an active cadet, but those majors made it hard for me,” Boye said.

Boye ended up in aeronautical studies after failing the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test by one point. She had the chance to retake the test, but there was a possibility of failing again.

“It was either I pull out of the program and allow myself to do something I was actually interested in, or I put all my eggs in one basket,” Boye said.

Boye applied for AOCS, like her father, and hopes to get into the program. She aspires to one day fly an off-carrier so she can contribute to her country like her other family members.

“I’m very excited to see what the future holds,” Boye said.

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