JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – From childhood onward, Eric Greitens has been ambitious. He's been a scholar, humanitarian, military officer, charity executive, author and public speaker. Now Missouri's governor, Greitens is facing trial this week on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge stemming from an extramarital affair. No trial date has been set yet on a second felony charge of tampering with computer data for using a charity donor list for his political campaign.
Here's a brief look at the path of Greitens' life:
Born on April 10, 1974, Greitens grew up in the St. Louis area in a family of five. His mother, Becky, taught early childhood special education. His father, Rob, worked as an accountant for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has two younger brothers, Marc and Aaron. Family friends from suburban St. Louis have said Greitens began talking in elementary school already about wanting to become president. His heroes in kindergarten included President Theodore Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He graduated from Parkway North High School in 1992.
Greitens attended Duke University on a scholarship and received a bachelor's degree in ethics in 1996. While there, he learned to box and participated in several foreign humanitarian trips. He volunteered at a Bosnian refugee camp in Croatia and traveled to Rwanda and Zaire as a volunteer U.N. photographer. After graduating, he traveled on a photography grant to a Bolivian home for street children. He then attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a master's degree in development studies and a doctoral degree in politics. While there, he traveled to Israel, India, Cambodia and other places. Classmates again noticed his ambition. Greitens married Rebecca Wright in October 2000; they divorced a little over two years later while living in California.
Greitens joined the Navy in January 2001 and became a SEAL officer. He went to Afghanistan for several weeks on a special deployment before leading a boat detachment for a deployment to Southeast Asia. While in Thailand, Greitens learned of drug use by Navy personnel and initiated an investigation that led to their ouster. In the Philippines, Greitens' crew effectively shut down a transit site for a terrorist organization, according to an evaluation report. He spent three months in charge of a 50-person unit in Manda Bay, Kenya, near the Somali border. He then left full-time active duty to take a one-year White House fellowship. Greitens simultaneously remained in the Navy Reserves, leading a program that recruited high-level advisers for special military operations around the world. After his fellowship, Greitens volunteered for a six-month tour in Iraq that began in October 2006. He was wounded when suicide bombers detonated trucks carrying chlorine gas at a Fallujah complex where military personnel were sleeping. His deployment ended as scheduled a little over a week later.
Returning home to St. Louis, Greitens founded The Mission Continues in 2007 to help military veterans gain work skills and a sense of purpose by providing fellowships for them to work at other charitable organizations. He put in a few thousand dollars to help launch the charity and initially worked without a salary. As the organization grew, Greitens eventually earned $175,000 annually. In August 2011, Greitens married Sheena Chestnut and they now have two sons, Joshua and Jacob. Greitens stepped down as CEO of The Mission Continues in July 2014 but remained on the board until September 2015, according to the charity's IRS filings. While at the charity, Greitens also built a career as an author and motivational speaker, booking events through his personal company The Greitens Group.
Though he had been a Democrat, Greitens became a Republican as he began laying the groundwork to run for office. He officially launched a fundraising committee in February 2015 and has since acknowledged that his campaign used a Mission Continues donor list to solicit money. Greitens won a closely contested GOP primary in August 2016 against businessman John Brunner, then-Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and former U.S. attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. In a TV ad, Greitens fired a large gun and cast himself as a political outsider ready to combat perceived corruption in Jefferson City. He defeated Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in the November election and took office in January 2017.
During his first year in office, Greitens signed a long-sought Republican priority barring mandatory union fees in workplace contracts, though it has been put on hold pending a voter referendum later this year. He called special sessions to enact abortion restrictions and incentives for metal manufacturers. Greitens also championed veterans, law officers and firefighters. Shortly after delivering his State of the State address in January, Greitens acknowledged having an affair in 2015. That led to an indictment in St. Louis on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge alleging he took and transmitted a nonconsensual nude photo of the woman. The House then began its own investigation of Greitens, which could lead to impeachment. In April, Greitens was charged in St. Louis with a second felony of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing a Mission Continues donor list to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the charity's permission.