Michael is a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, taking part in operations in Ramadi and Fallujah.
“I was part of a four-man team that would provide forward observation and coordinate Marine air support for Army units. If the Army troops needed support, we would be there for them.”
To keep his mind off how much he missed his family, Michael focused on his job.
“Most of the time we were so busy, and you had to concentrate on the mission at hand. It wasn’t until late at night or during off times that you would really start missing home.
“Communicating with my family was important and I tried to as much as I could. I would spend time in the computer room on the base and send instant messages back and forth and I’d call home about five times a month to check in on everything. I also wrote my thoughts into a notebook every day and when I filled it up, I would send the whole thing to my wife.
“My being away was hard on my kids. I wasn’t around to do things like help with homework or just hang out. That’s why I was so happy when I finally came home—it was a chance to get things back to normal for our family."
Michael, his wife Jennifer, and their three children live in Galesburg, Illinois, where Michael works as a veteran employment specialist.
“It can be hard for veterans to adjust to civilian life when they get home. It kind of feels like you are dropped into the wilderness. When I got home, it was hard for me to find a job. That’s when I decided to go to school to get my degree—which helped me end up in a job I love.
“A lot of what I do is help veterans who are struggling to make ends meet. There was one person who was broke and was being evicted from her apartment. We got a team together to help her find a home, a job, and even help her enroll in classes. If I could give advice to the soldiers who are now coming home from Iraq, it would be to find someone that you can talk to about your experiences during war, and to invest in yourself—you are worth an education and the ability to advance your life.”
Four and a half years after Michael finished his second tour in Iraq, President Obama announced that the war was coming to an end.
“I was at work and saw the news pop up on my computer. I was so absolutely happy that I stood up from my desk and announced it to everyone in the office. President Obama brought the war to a responsible end, and in doing so, honored the sacrifice of everyone who served in Iraq. That’s why I support the President—because he is intelligent and makes common-sense decisions. I’m proud that someone like that is representing our country.”
As we mark the close of the Iraq war, take a moment to thank our troops and share what this moment means to you.