Despite serving in the U.S. Army for almost 18 years, MSG Scott U’Ren did not know May is Military Appreciation Month.
“I don’t do what I do for military appreciation day or month,” U’Ren, a senior military instructor and military science instructor for BGSU Army ROTC, said. “If the day I die nobody realizes who I was, I’m okay with that. I’m just a guy that wants to serve my country, defend the constitution and defend freedom and the American way of life.”
Although he does not seek the appreciation, many people do appreciate him, especially one of his fellow soldiers who U’Ren said credits him with saving his life. While serving in Iraq, U’Ren said he was sitting in a truck with fellow soldiers when he got a bad feeling and moved the truck back 20 feet. Five minutes later, a mortar hit right where a soldier would have been sitting if U’Ren never moved the truck back.
Joining the U.S. Army
U’Ren grew up in Midland, Michigan, and attended Michigan Technological University for five and a half years to study electrical engineering, physics and geological engineering.
He moved to Florida and the Caribbean to work for natural disaster teams.
After finding out his father was diagnosed with cancer and he was going to become an uncle, he moved back to Michigan to be with his family. He said he wanted a more noble and respectable job, so he attended Central Michigan University to become a high school math and physics teacher.
One morning before class in early 2003, he said his roommate was watching TV. President George W. Bush was on the newscast saying how the United States invaded Iraq.
“I didn’t go to class that day or any day after that,” U’Ren said. “I went right to the recruiting station. I didn’t want to watch it on TV. I wanted to see it with my own eyes.”
U’Ren, who was not married at the time, said he had fun when he was outdoors, going on adventures, playing sports and sharing a camaraderie with others, so he thought the army was a decent fit.
Military service was also a part of his family. His grandfather served in World War II and his father tried to serve in Vietnam but was unable to for medical reasons.
“I admired my grandpa,” U’Ren said. “My dad never could, but they’re telling me I can. I was trying to carry on a legacy.”
Serving in the U.S. Army
(Timeline of Scott U’Ren’s life during his military service)
Three weeks before starting basic training in May 2003, he met his wife, Lori.
“If you can imagine this room that has 60 people in it and 30 sets of bunk beds all over the place,” U’Ren said. “I had the top bunk and this itchy wool green blanket pulled over top of me. I had my flashlight writing a letter every night. I mailed it to her everyday.”
This went on for 16 weeks until he had two weeks of leave. Within those two weeks, he proposed to her and moved to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he was assigned his first three-year assignment.
He married Lori in the middle of his tour and they welcomed their first son, Max. Shortly
after, U’Ren left for a 16-month deployment to Iraq.
Lori said watching him leave for his deployment was one of the most difficult experiences of her life.
“I wanted badly to just run and cling to my husband and beg him not to go,” she said. “After the bus left, the spouses all stood together crying and not knowing quite what to do.”
U’Ren said it was very tough leaving behind his wife and nine-month-old son without knowing if he would see them again.
“I joined because I was single. I didn’t have kids,” U’ren, who carried a picture of his wife and son for his entire deployment, said. “I had to come home.”
In the Mosul Rural District in Iraq, U’Ren earned a Combat Action Badge after encountering a suicide vehicle bomber, which is awarded to soldiers who either personally engage or are personally engaged by the enemy. He said he still remembers the sight of body parts exploding all over from suicide bombers he encountered throughout his service.
“It wasn't watching it on TV,” U’Ren said. “It was real. There’s things that I saw that would never be allowed to be viewed on TV.”
After his deployment, he returned to Alaska. Lori said seeing U’Ren for the first time after his deployment was an amazing feeling.
“I guess I was scared he wouldn’t be able to find me right away so I started yelling his name,” Lori said. “This is something I would normally never do at a military event, but I didn’t even think before I did it. As soon as the soldiers were released, I ran to him and threw my arms around him.”
In 2008, he and his wife welcomed their second son, Jacob. Five months later, U’Ren left for a 12-month deployment to Iraq.
“I missed a lot of my kids’ firsts,” U’ren said. “But thankfully the wife was strong, kept things together and was running the show while I was playing army.”
After coming back from his deployments, U’Ren said it was difficult to hear about the soldiers he trained and served with who died while serving or committed suicide from PTSD.
“There’s a lot of bad,” U’Ren said. “There were bad people out there, but the majority, a large percentage, are good.”
Good memories will always be there to outweigh his bad ones.
He said one of the greatest honors he had was being able to honor Cpl. Melvin Hill, a soldier who died during the Korean War but whose remains were not identified and brought back to his hometown in Oklahoma until 2017. U’Ren was serving in Oklahoma at the time, so he was able to present Hill’s American flag and medals to his great niece.
U’Ren loves honoring past generations of soldiers, so being able to present his grandfather’s American flag at his funeral to his grandmother is a memory U’Ren will always cherish. He will also hold onto the lighthearted memories, such as the laughs after watching basic combat trainees rub hand sanitizer in their eyes.
“It’s a privilege to get to serve in the army,” U’Ren said. “It is something way bigger than me, and hopefully it always will be.”
(Photo Gallery of important mementos from U’Ren’s time in the military)
Serving at BGSU
After completing an assignment in Oklahoma, U’Ren found his way to Bowling Green.
The army assigned U’Ren as a senior military science instructor for the BGSU Army ROTC program. He started Sept. 11, 2019, as the instructor for sophomore cadets. He also does physical training with the freshmen cadets.
“I was going to college to be a teacher,” U’Ren said. “Well guess what I get to do a lot of in the army? Teach. I feel like I’m giving back. I’m helping the new generation, and I’m hoping the new generation is even better than what mine was. It’s been really rewarding for me.”
Autumn Shingler, a freshman in Army ROTC, said U’Ren was a major reason why she stayed in the program. After falling behind at the beginning of fall semester, Shingler took U’Ren up on his offer to work on days off.
“I was there every single day and he was there every single day,” Shingler said. “We worked together to where I improved by a lot. Then I ended up getting hurt, and I definitely thought about quitting. He was one of the reasons I didn’t. He said, ‘You saw how fast you improved the first time. Why can’t you do it again?’”
Kayla Lowery is a sophomore in Pershing Rifles, an organization that U’Ren facilitates. Lowery said U’Ren taught her lessons she will carry with her throughout life.
“He is the kind of person that when I think of military servicemen, he’s what I want to envision,” Lowery said. “His big thing was, ‘I made every decision knowing that based on this
decision, I could lay my head at night and sleep soundly.’ That’s how I live my life.”
Lilly Hirschfeld, a junior in Army ROTC, said U’Ren is a very important asset to the
program as he goes the extra mile to provide people in the program with everything they need.
“You can tell that this is all more important than himself,” Hirschfeld said. “He’s a very selfless person. He’s just one of those people that you wish you could have more of, so it makes you appreciate him that much more.”
U’Ren said although it is good for America to appreciate the military, it is odd experiencing that appreciation, which is why he tries not to wear his uniform out in public.
“If I go to Walmart here in BG, I could be in an aisle picking up laundry detergent, and if I’m wearing this uniform, I’ve had people just come down the aisle just to say ‘thank you for your service’ and then leave the aisle. It’s weird,” U’Ren said.
May 15 will mark U’Ren’s 18 years of service in the army. He said he hopes to be privileged to serve in Afghanistan in the future.
“I want to deploy again for the same reason that a player in the NFL wants to play games and hopefully go to the Super Bowl,” U’Ren said. “A football player wants to play in football games and contribute to the team. I want to deploy and contribute to the nation.”
Despite the hardships U’Ren has encountered throughout his service, he said the army has been good to him and for him.
“Are there hard times? Sure.” U’Ren said. “But it ultimately is not that hard. If it was that hard, I don’t think I’d still be here, because I am just a guy. I’m not special. I’m not one in a million. I am one of millions. I’m just continuing on part of what millions and millions have already done.”