By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News
KINGSLAND — College didn't work out the first time for Fred Schaefer.
More than two decades ago, Schaefer quit his education and joined the Navy. He spent the next 20 years serving aboard submarines as a sonar technician.
After he retired from the Navy, Schaefer returned to Camden County — he liked the area when he served at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. He said affordable housing and a nearby college were other considerations.
He took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled at the College of Coastal Georgia, attending classes in Kingsland and Brunswick in another attempt to earn a degree.
He is more focused and confident about his ability to succeed academically, and it has not gone unnoticed.
Instructors at the Kingsland campus recommended Schaefer for the inaugural Pete Wheeler Veterans Memorial Award, which is given to the outstanding veteran student attending classes at the college's Kingsland campus.
"I was totally not expecting it," Schaefer said of the award. "All I do is my job, study, try to be an 'A' student and do the best I can."
The award is named after the late Brigadier Gen. Pete Wheeler, a World War II veteran who served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service from 1954 until 2015.
The award was established by the Kings Bay Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. Holly Christensen, director of the college's Kingsland center, said instructors were asked to recommend a student with a long military service for the inaugural award.
"We wanted a veteran who has served a while," she said.
Christensen said the selection process was difficult because veterans tend to work hard in the classroom.
"They are typically better than average because of their military experience," she said. "They are more mature and more motivated."
The award's intent is to show veterans they are still recognized after their military service ends.
"The whole idea is to provide support," she said. "Our veteran students are much better than average."