Michael family: Four brothers fight for America’s freedom
Torrington – “This family didn’t set out to be a military family, it just played out that way. Nikki and I both encouraged the boys to be a part of it because of what it can offer. It teaches true patriotism and gives a person a sense of pride, not only in our country, but in what our country stands for,” says Russ Michael, whose four sons are all active in the military and have fought in either Iraq, Afghanistan or both.
“I come from a long line of military men. My father served in WWII in the Navy. As a small child I remember him telling stories about a cocky young lieutenant named John Kennedy. I have an uncle that was in the Marines and served during the Korean War. He was also a mentor to my oldest brother, who joined the Marines and served in Vietnam. My grandfather served in WWI, “ says Nikki Michael of her family’s history in military.
Russ was in the Air force during the Vietnam era and his grandfather was a member of the Nebraska National Guard.
“When all our sons chose to go into the military, I thought it was a good idea because I knew it would give them a sense of direction in life, especially if they were uncertain about their futures. I knew the military was a good place to get direction, a sense of self-worth and self-discipline. But, I did not expect them to go off to war and have to fight for our country. I am very proud of all of them,” adds Nikki.
“I believe that having children in the military and particularly in a war is much harder on the mothers than the fathers. We are very blessed to live in this day and age, because technology like the Internet made it possible for Nikki to be in contact with the boys almost every day of their deployments,” adds Russ.
The couple’s oldest son Shawn is a First Lieutenant with the active Army Reserves. His unit is currently based out of Topeka, Kan. He is also finishing a law degree at Washburn University.
“Shawn went to the army after his second year of college because he wasn’t sure at that time what he wanted to do with his life. He served in the regular Army for six years and is finishing law school now. His decision to join kind of influenced the others,” comments Russ.
Bill Patton is a godson of Russ and Nikki’s whom they consider their own. He is currently a Captain with the Wyoming National Army Guard. He works out of Camp Guernsey or the Cheyenne headquarters.
“His MOS, or area of emphasis, is combat engineering. While in Iraq he built roads and bridges. At that time he was with the Rock Springs unit, and when he got back he was transferred to the Laramie unit,” explains Nikki.
Jason is a full-time employee with the Wyoming National Guard and works out of Guernsey, where he’s currently a shop foreman. He graduated from Casper College with a diesel mechanic degree.
“He’s currently with the Torrington National Army Guard unit. He’s been attached to the Gillette unit and spend five or six years at Lovell prior to transferring down here,” says Russ.
Grant is the youngest and is currently with the Sheridan National Guard unit and lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Grant went to a technical college and is a certified welder and mechanic. He went straight from college to work for the Guard. He just got back from Iraq and Kuwait in April,” says Russ.
“As a mother I couldn’t be prouder of them for serving their country. I can’t think of anything I’m more proud of than all their accomplishments. They’ve all received excellence education, thanks in large part to the military, and have learned many life lessons. Their patriotism extends beyond the call of duty,” says Nikki.
“We are as proud as can be of all of them and we are also thankful to the military. They took good care of our boys in all four cases. They each went as young, soon-to-be adults and came back men in every case. That’s one of the things the military does for its members – they grow up pretty fast. Through their involvement in the military they got a pretty good lesson on what the real world is like, both in other countries and in other areas of our own country,” comments Russ.
Both Russ and Nikki are very proud of their three daughters-in law as well, noting they have taken on the role of a military wife with strength and grace in all three cases.
“I think it’s very hard to put into words the pride you feel. It means so much both at the individual level and when you take into consideration what they each do for our entire country. It means a lot to all of us,” says Jason’s wife Kelsey.
“We have been very blessed as parents that all of our sons as well as our extended family members involved in the military have come back from the war safe and unharmed. We know several people who haven’t been as fortunate. Our pride extends beyond our sons to every man and woman who fights for our country’s freedom,” says Russ.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.