Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles highlighting the military career of Rush County residents.
Rushville resident Max McMichael spent nearly half his life serving his country in the U.S. Army.
According to the U.S. Army website, the Army is a key component of the United States Armed forces, comprised of the best-trained, most dedicated and most respected soldiers in the world. A soldier in the army is the embodiment of physical and emotional strength and strength of purpose, defending our homeland and democracy worldwide.
Prior to his military service, many of McMichael’s formative years were spent in western part of the county. He attended Arlington Elementary School and then Rushville Consolidated High School through his junior year before his family moved to nearby Fayette County where he graduated in 1974.
During high school, McMichael worked at the Rushville Marsh Supermarket prior to a transfer to the Greenfield Marsh store. Following a truckers strike and a company cutback, he found himself unemployed and returned to Rushville to work at the P.H. Hirsh store. A year removed from high school, the economy once again took a downturn and again he found himself unemployed.
Although he wanted to be a pilot and join the Air Force, the lack of a college education was going to keep him grounded.
“The air force recruiter said that without a college education I could not fly a plane, but I could work on them. I said if I can’t fly them then I sure don’t want to work on them, so I went next door to the Army recruiting office. When the Army recruiter asked what I wanted, I replied, I want a job. He said well I can help you with that,” McMichael said with a laugh.
He continued by saying that at that time the Army also offered an enlisting bonus and that sealed the deal, by saying “that’s the job for me.”
Little did he know that when he went to basic training in May of 1975 that he would spend the next 22 years in the Army.
After basic training at Fort Know, Ky., the Rushville resident was transferred to Fort Sill, Okla., for extensive training for tank duty.
“I was a tanker for my entire military career. From Fort Sill, I was transferred to Germany for a three-year tour before returning to Fort Knox,” McMichael said.
Eighteen months later, McMichael was again deployed for a second three-plus-year tour of active duty in Germany. When he returned stateside, he was selected to be a drill sergeant and once again found himself stationed at Fort Knox.
“That was the probably the most job satisfaction I have ever had. It was by far the hardest job I’ve ever had, but definitely the most rewarding at the same time. Training the young men that came in the service and transitioning them from a civilian into a soldier, basically, I watched them grow up,” McMichael said.
That was followed by a third tour overseas, this time to Saudi Arabia during the Desert Storm conflict. Now a Platoon Sgt., McMichael was over four tanks and 16 men.
“We were stationed roughly 60 kilometers north of Kuwait City during the oil fires that everyone saw on the news. We did get into a couple of engagements during that time and my platoon exemplified themselves during those encounters,” he said.
As a result of his war efforts, McMichael was awarded a Bronze Star, something he is very proud of today.
After returning stateside, McMichael was assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Little Rock, Ark., and later Fort Pope in Louisiana.
He retired from the Army on Dec 31, 1996, bring a nearly 22-year military career to a close.
“I would recommend that if a person growing up today doesn’t know what they want out of life that they at least consider the military experience. Every day I in was in the service was different from the one before. When I was coming up through the ranks, everyday there was something that would change the daily routine.”
He continued by saying that the landscape of war has changed through the years and in looking back, he remains proud of his decision to join the military all those years ago.
“I really applaud the soldiers today. Since Iraq and Afghanistan, today’s soldiers are in such a stressful environment. When I was in (the service) we knew who our enemy was, times have changed. Sometimes nowadays, you may not know who your enemy is,” McMichael added.
In closing McMichael said he is also glad he made the decision to return to his roots in Rush County and to see the American flag fly overhead.
“The American Flag instills patriotism in me, and still today, I would give my life for our American way of life. I will salute the flag everyday it is presented to me,” McMichael said.
Contact: Frank Denzler @ 765.932.2222 x106.