Photo of Larry Scharf, a first-year student and U.S. Army veteran, who is finding a new purpose at UW-Stevens Point. (UW-Stevens Point)

Larry Scharf, a first-year student and U.S. Army veteran, is finding a new purpose at UW-Stevens Point. (UW-Stevens Point)

U.S. Army veteran Larry Scharff never realized that he could enjoy a job and provide for his family until he began his education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Now a first-year student in the College of Natural Resources, majoring in wildlife ecology and management, he looks forward to a job that allows him to work outdoors.

Growing up in Lees Summit, Mo., Scharff became a father at age 18. His priority was working to provide for his family, which he did in a metal fabricating facility for several years. After a family friend enlisted in the army, he became aware of the possibilities and benefits the army could bring – stable income, training, support for his family, which by then included two young sons. He enlisted in 2013 in a military intelligence role and was assigned to Fort Sill, Lawton, Okla., but left before his training was complete for family reasons.

Fast forward to 2020 when he re-enlisted as a calvary scout, the small teams who perform reconnaissance before military engagements. “I’m not much of a computer guy,” said Scharff, “and reconnaissance sounded more exciting and a better fit for my interests and skills.”

He was sent to Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga., (now Fort Moore) where he was able to do both basic training and individual job training at one station. He graduated in May 2020, and was assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. There he was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

In July, he moved his wife and their four children to Texas. They lived there until June 2023, when he separated from the military. His unit was set to be deployed to Poland while he was in Texas, but due to COVID, they could not go, and other units were brought back.

“I had a good experience in the military and would have stayed, but my job called for me to be gone a lot on long missions and expecting my wife to manage alone with four kids was too much,” Scharff said.

With the help of a military career preparation program, he readied himself for work in the construction industry. Then Larry started thinking bigger. He wanted to go to college.

His wife, Chelsea, has a master’s degree in social work, and the military had given him leadership skills and confidence he had previously lacked. He was also eligible for the GI bill and housing assistance, so education was in reach. The couple started thinking about where they should live. Chelsea was from Plainfield, so they thought moving to Wisconsin to be near her family would be helpful.

“That’s when I learned about Stevens Point,” said Scharff. “I didn’t even know there were places like the College of Natural Resources, let alone one with a national reputation.”

After connecting with Christopher Smith, the UW-Stevens Point veterans program liaison, he applied and was accepted into UW-Stevens Point. He started in September.

What was his biggest takeaway from serving in the military? “The Army’s values are leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I came away with all those things, and they will serve me well in the future.”

He also credits the Army for his ability to study with a working wife and four children under the age of 12. “We lived in tough conditions with long, challenging missions and little sleep. You get accustomed to all kinds of challenges. I don’t get as stressed as others under trying conditions because of that,” he said.  His routine at home has him studying into the early morning hours after his family has gone to bed for the night.

Scharff doesn’t have time to participate in many Veterans Club activities, but says he appreciates the Veteran’s Lounge and the ability to connect with other vets at UW-Stevens Point.

“We kind of have a shared experience and shared language, so I feel more comfortable with them,” he said. “I had a tough time emotionally when I separated from the Army because I wasn’t sure any more about my purpose. The Army does a great job of training you for the emotional chaos of combat, but they don’t do as good a job of preparing you for life as a civilian.”

He’s finding his way now at UW-Stevens Point and is grateful for the support he gets as a veteran.

“I don’t need to be a millionaire or drive a fancy car,” said Larry. “I want to work in a job that makes me happy and has a purpose, and I want to live comfortably and spend time with my family. I’m on the way there at UWSP.”

Written by UW-Stevens Point

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