“I graduated from high school and was working in a factory job. The draft lottery came out, my number was not a good number. It was inevitable at that point in time. You had an 80% chance you were going to Vietnam. When I was growing up it seemed like someone on the block was always going into the military, it was part of the fabric of life back then.” Mike was drafted, but he’d already begun his application for the Navy, so he filled out an induction release and served as a corpsman.
“I was looking at my deck of cards that were dealt to me and I could do this or I could do that…I had a buddy who went to high school, same set of circumstances but he got drafted. He went to Germany for two years. The sad part is he went to Germany and nothing is going on over there. So he becomes a heroin addict and overdoses and dies in Germany from heroin. The point I’m trying to make is, bad things happen no matter what happens to you. The human spirit has to lift itself out no matter where you’re at.”
For most coming out of the military, Mike says there is a Y in the road. Some individuals finished their service and had a very difficult time making the transition back to civilian life. By his estimates, 25% went to college and entered factory jobs.
After 9/11, things came full circle and he saw “the broken record get stuck again”. His desire to help “engulfed my body with wanting to do this thing”, so he started an LLC called St. Louis Veterans Business Network. The Network will accomplish several things, including allowing Veterans to network, helping young Veterans succeed in business and by simply giving them someone they can talk to about their experiences. He believes that his generation holds the strings to help this new generation of Veterans, after all, there are approximately 170,000 Vietnam Veterans living in Missouri.
Once he had completed his service, Mike went to SIUE where he did his best to blend in, because he says you didn’t want anyone to know you had been over there. Then, he met his wife and a year later they were married. They had two sons and a daughter and today they are still happily married.
I asked Mike, as I’m beginning to ask everyone, what his favorite thing was about St. Louis. His answer is something I think everyday when I’m walking through the streets of downtown. “Having grown up here and knowing the history and the significance of St. Louis earlier in the 19th century, turn of the 20th century, St. Louis is the biggest small town in the world. It truly is.”
Oh, and of course the Cardinals. (Go Cards!)
I’ve skipped several blog posts for a good reason. Mike is hosting an event this Saturday October 19th called “A Warrior’s Night”. I told him I would write about our meeting this week to help promote the event. Tickets are free, but you can register here.
Please sign up for a Free Coffee, here!