The decorated Armed Forces career of a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduate will be celebrated Nov. 4 as part of veterans appreciation day activities taking place during the Titan football game versus UW-Eau Claire.
Kevin O’Brien, of Sheboygan, who graduated in 1981 with a degree in history and political science, has been chosen as the 2017 Veteran of the Game. Serving as a member of the UW Oshkosh Alumni Association Board since 2016, O’Brien is a distinguished member of not only the Armed Forces but also the UW Oshkosh community.
“There are numerous vets in the area and in our Titan community who are worthy of this recognition so I am very humbled by this honor,” O’Brien said. “I will accept on behalf of all Titan veterans, past and present.”
Veterans and those currently serving in the Armed Forces receive free admission to the football game, a free T-shirt and a tailgate with food and refreshments sponsored by Erik Hosking’s State Farm Insurance in the Zion Lutheran Church parking lot.
A flyover is planned as well as a raffle with more than 25 items.
O’Brien began his career in the Armed Forces in January 1975 as a member of the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Thailand and Germany as part of a K-9 law enforcement unit. Until 1977, O’Brien served as a member of the Fast Response Force that responded to crises anywhere in the world. He was a weapons expert sharpshooter and a qualified parachutist.
He was awarded Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Expert Marksman with rifles and pistols, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Award and Vietnam campaign and service ribbons.
In June 1977, O’Brien transitioned to the inactive reserves in order to attend college at UW Oshkosh. He was a member of the Titan swim team, where he lettered three years from 1979 to 1981; and a member of Titan baseball in 1980 and 1981. O’Brien lived in Fletcher Hall for three years, two of which he served as a community adviser. O’Brien rounded out his time at UW Oshkosh as a member of Campus Security for two years.
After graduation in 1981, O’Brien returned to the Armed Forces as a member of the U.S. Navy until 1992. During this time, he was stationed on the U.S.S. Nimitz as Air Department division officer, U.S.S. Byrd as executive officer, and U.S.S. Racine as operations and deck officer. With the onset of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, O’Brien was deployed to Iraq until 1991.
In 1992, O’Brien moved to the U.S. Navy Reserves with a focus on training and administration of the Reserves. He earned a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager Certificate from University of California-Los Angeles in 1995.
During six years of intermittent active reserve status until 2002 with the U.S. Navy, O’Brien operated in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, Japan and other locations.
O’Brien officially retired due to medical reasons in 2002 as a lieutenant commander of the U.S. Navy but was officially frocked to commander. He won many awards during his time in the Armed Forces, including Navy Expert Rifle & Pistol, the Iraqi Expeditionary Medal, Navy Battle Effectiveness Award with Star, and the Far East Service Award.
O’Brien is married to his wife, Sarah, and has two stepchildren, Constance Zhang and Mary Xiao.