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Voices of the Brave: From soldier to winery owner

Before she opened the Salado Winery, June Ritterbusch was stationed all over the world as she served in the U.S. Army for 10 years.

SALADO, Texas — When June Ritterbusch joined the Army in May 1992 after graduating from Boston University, she never imagined she would open a small Texas town's first winery a decade later. 

Ritterbusch was commissioned as an aviation officer and spent the next 10 years being deployed all over the world.

“My favorite part was the travel-- getting to go different places and work with lots of different people," Ritterbusch said.

Ritterbusch met her husband while stationed in Germany. In Italy, she piloted helicopters and was a platoon leader.

“I flew a lot while I was in Italy all over northern Italy in the Alps," Ritterbusch said. "You call up the air fields in English and many times the Italians would be so shocked when I would call up the air fields and hear a woman's voice, but that doesn't change anything. You still keep going.”

Ritterbusch said she also flew with troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and was deployed to Norway. She said the deployment has always stuck in her mind because “the sun would go down at two or three in the afternoon, and it was so cold.”

After four years in Europe, Ritterbusch was sent to Korea where she was a production control officer for an aviation support battalion.

“That was a great job," Ritterbusch said. "To be in Korea at a time when things were really quiet career was really different after having spent four years in Europe. It was an interesting, different change and then it was time for me to come stateside. So my husband, being from Texas, said let's go to Texas. It was not hard to get to Texas from Korea.”

Getting to Texas meant coming to Fort Hood. When Ritterbusch arrived in the late 1990s, she was given a special opportunity.

“I commanded a forward support company in an Army Battalion and that was really an interesting opportunity for me because I had always been working in aviation jobs, and that was the first time I had worked with a different group of people within the Army," Ritterbusch said. "Working with tankers was quite an interesting trip. They were used to a boy’s world, and at the time I was one of the first women to have a job like that. So it was a real big time for me to grow and change. When that finished, I felt I had done all I wanted to do in the Army and that I was ready to try to move things.”

After leaving active duty in 2002, Ritterbusch went to business school. Three years later, she opened the Salado Winery. 

It was the first winery in Salado and the first business that let customers buy c wine and take it home, even though the area was dry.

“I never dreamed that I would end up with the winery it was an idea that popped into my head when I got back from business school," she said. "It just clicked with me. I thought, 'This is just what we need in Salado.'”

Now, 14 years later, business is thriving for the Army veteran. 

Last year, the Salado Chamber of Commerce named the winery “Business of the Year 2018." 

Ritterbusch said when she looks back on her military career, the friendships she made are what have had the longest lasting impact. 

“The best part of military was the friendships that we made and pulling out the old pictures, seeing all the different friends I made on the way with such a joy.”

The Salado Winery is open seven days a week from 12-6 p.m.


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