DALLAS - Joining the Army is not a decision that is taken lightly. It takes a commitment, it takes courage, and it takes strength and confidence. But, staying with the Army once you've suffered a severe trauma to the brain while in a warzone takes more than just courage, it takes perseverance and leadership.

Capt. David C. Freeman embodies all those qualities and more. Freeman joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division as the camp-de-aide to SWD Commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas Kula in January. He came to SWD after an assignment at Fort Hood, Texas.

While Freeman may only be 26 years old, and has been a soldier for less than 10 years, he has already earned the distinguished honor of being a Purple Heart recipient for his wounds sustained through enemy contact while serving in Afghanistan.

"I joined the Army at 18 years old to get away from home, meet new people and get an opportunity to lead," the Van Buren, Ark. native said. "The amount of responsibility you get at my age is difficult to get anywhere else besides the Army."

Freeman studied engineer management and environmental engineering at the Military Academy at West Point. In December 2010, Freeman was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he served as a platoon route clearance leader. It was while serving there that he got the unfortunate experience of a lifetime.
While performing a routine route inspection, Freeman and his platoon unit were struck by a 100 pound improvised explosion device.

"I was sitting in the truck commander seat when the IED detonated under my seat," Freeman said. The explosion rendered Freeman unconscious and when he woke up he faced injuries of broken teeth, lacerations on his face and arms, lower back injuries, and traumatic brain injury. "I have a gap in memory 20 minutes before the accident and about 45 minutes after," Freeman recounts.

Fortunately, the explosion did not result in any deaths and miraculously, Freeman recovered in Kandahar and within a few weeks, was back out patrolling with his platoon.

"The physical injuries, like my back and elbows, healed within a couple of months, but my memory took almost a year to recover," Freeman said.

In spite of his accident, Freeman says the experience he had while deployed was amazing. "My Soldiers and NCOs were just unbelievable," he said. "That thing you hear about becoming a family, that's how it really was. We were all really close."

Now in Dallas, working for SWD, Freeman faces new challenges, such as working with a majority civilian workforce.

"The team here at SWD is excellent," Freeman said. "I knew it would be an adjustment going from working with soldiers to working with civilians, but this is a great team that is easy to work with."

Working for USACE as an aide has also given Freeman the opportunity to see first-hand what being an Army leader is all about. "Working here broadens my perspective of how the Army operates," he said. "It allows me to see from the top down how decisions are made and the thought process that goes in to them. Not to mention, Brig. Gen. Kula has so many years of leadership experience, to get to learn first had from somebody that's already been there and done that is invaluable."

Further, Freeman says working for SWD gives him a better understanding of what the Corps does. "I get to see the effects the Corps has on my hometown and the community I was raised in."

Freeman still has more than a year before his assignment with SWD is up, but he's already looking to the future and hoping the Corps will be a part of it. "It would be nice to come back to the Corps if I get the opportunity," Freeman said. "Everyone's been great and this has been a wonderful experience."