A war veteran triumphed over trauma, and all thanks to a tale his grandmother told him as a child.
Mike McMichael of Durham, NC was at the point of suicide, when a story he’d heard as a child came ringing through his memories and kept him from tumbling over the point of no return.
Mike McMichael was working for a local power company and steadily found himself working his way to the top. He had enlisted with the North Carolina National Guard in 1995, and eventually he was selected to serve. When war had come, as a Lieutenant he was chosen to be platoon leader for the First Battalion 20th Infantry. He had been sent overseas to Iraq’s Saladin province near Baghdad in the middle of a hailstorm of casualties. He had been promoted to company executive officer, where he had direct responsibility for nearly 200 North Carolinans and the call sign ManDog Five.
Nothing could have prepared him for what happened in November of 2004.
Mike McMichael, the war veteran who eventually triumphed over trauma, had been lucky, with a lot of near misses from IEDs (improvised explosive device). One finally hit the armored Humvee he was driving, though, and sent the vehicle off the road. He had been unconscious for five minutes before he reawakened with no sense of sight, hearing, or feeling. He had suffered brain damage in the attack, even though no one in his group was severely injured.
The war veteran recalled it:
“The way it was, when you got hit like that, you got out of the wreckage and said, ‘Whew! We made it!’ If you weren’t bleeding, pretty much you went on and continued with the mission. There was no going to get a head scan or anything like that. … I knew a concussion ought to be checked out. I didn’t know you would possibly have a brain injury.”
Mike McMichael | August 2013 I photographed Mike McMichael for a story in Huffington Magazine about suicide… http://t.co/K8vFu8RnxD
— Jeremy M. Lange (@jeremymlange) September 3, 2013
The signs came with time, as Mike McMichael suffered memory lapses, blackouts, and fits of violent rage that cost him his job, and almost his wife and kids. Looking back, he had realized his life was coming apart and felt that depressing urge to end it all. His macho pride had almost gotten the best of him.
Then a story his grandmother had told him as a child kicked in, about a man who had been on top of the world until he had fallen on hard times. When it seemed all hope was gone, he had taken a shotgun, put it under his chin, and blown off enough of his head that he was still breathing, but all he could do was sit in silence, alone with his thoughts.
Mike McMichael decided at that point he didn’t want to end up like that, and now he fights to just hold on as much as he can, and has discarded his pride and sought help. His grandma’s story from childhood helped the war veteran triumph over trauma.
[image via Stripes.com]