“The Call of Adventure: Michael Muir”
“I was born in southeastern Wisconsin in the small city of Kenosha which sits right on Lake Michigan. I had a pretty tough childhood; I grew up surrounded by a lot of substance abuse and domestic violence and spent a considerable amount of time homeless. Later, I bounced around the state foster care system for a few years and ended up being adopted when I was 14 years old. Things were tough, but I persevered and survived.”
Describe to me the moment you decided to join the military. Who or what led you to that decision?
“Despite a relatively unstable childhood, I managed to do alright in school; when I graduated high school, I earned a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin tuition-free. However, I ended up withdrawing from the University during my first semester. I didn’t have an appetite for school at the time and instead was looking for a sense of adventure. So I saved up some money working odd jobs and moved to California. I had an amazing two years living in San Diego and exploring the region, but eventually, I felt the call of adventure once more and wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. The Marine Corps answered that call and provided a feeling of family and fraternity that I had never experienced before.”
What was your job in the Marine Corps? What type of training did you undergo to be certified for that position?
“I was a Combat Engineer with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. Marine Corps combat engineers are a jack of all trades; in fact, my battalion’s nickname is “The Super Breed.” With that being said, Engineer training, which occurs after completing Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry, is multifaceted. Our mission is to provide mobility, counter-mobility, survivability, and general engineer and combat support to the infantry units of 1st Marine Division. In the Global War on Terror, division combat engineers specialize in expedient demolitions, including urban breaching, as well as landmine warfare particularly as it relates to route clearance and countering the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) threat.”
What was your most memorable experience in uniform?
“At one point during my enlistment, I was in the Horn of Africa and was part of a small bilateral training mission with the French Foreign Legion. My squad and I ended up playing the role of foreign nationals who were to be extracted from a local village by a light-armored Legionnaires unit. Wearing civilian clothing while being embedded in a small village in Africa and passing out MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) candy to the local kids, I couldn’t help but think about how cool it was that I had the opportunity to participate first-hand in part of America’s multilateral foreign policy strategy. At the end of the exercise, I had a couple of beers with some of the French Legionnaires and exchanged small gifts; needless to say I’m still thankful to the Corps for allowing me to travel the world.”
When you hear the term “leader” who is the first person that comes to mind?
“I’m a life-long student of leadership, so I actually think about this pretty often and to be honest, I don’t think of any specific individual in particular. Leaders, in my eyes, are those individuals who have a natural propensity to exhibit, and subsequently elicit from others, the values that push human society forward and uphold the highest ideals of man. I’m talking about things like honor, justice, empowerment, decisiveness, integrity, and judgment. I suppose what does come to mind are the nameless men and women across the country who uphold these values that serve as the pillars of leadership. To be sure, leading is a lonely burden, but in the end, we all depend on those select individuals to bring out our best and ensure human progress continues.”
Who are some of the Marines you worked with that had an impact on your service?
“I met a lot of great Marines, and many of them have had some sort of impact on my own service, but two Marines, in particular, stand out and those are my good friends James “Jimmy” Benson and John “A-Sal” Salazar. I met them both at the Marine Corps School of Engineering in Courthouse Bay, Camp Lejeune and we all ended up receiving orders to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. Jimmy was, and still is, the definition of dependability and is one of the best team players I’ve ever met. I had the great honor of being his best man in his wedding; it was a privilege to be there for him as he was always there for me to lean on. A-Sal is a Marine’s Marine – loyal, confident, and can run like the wind; I’d want him on my side for any battle. Both are excellent examples of what Marines can do when they strive to fulfill their potential: Jimmy’s Marine Corps career continues to blossom as he molds and leads combat engineers in Hawaii. A-Sal got out of the Corps around the same time as I did and is a fellow Ivy League student veteran studying at the University of Pennsylvania and preparing for law school. I’m excited to watch both of their careers continue and am honored to call them my friends.”
Who are some of your heroes?
“It may sound a little lame and stuffy, but I’ve always considered the American forefathers as heroes. I think of historical figures like Generals Washington and Hamilton and patriots like Paul Revere. To have the courage to stand up to tyranny, despite Great Britain having one of the most powerful militaries in the world, while simultaneously having the intellect and commitment to establishing a form of government that is the basis of where we are today, is the epitome of heroism.”
How has your military service changed you?
“I learned those key, distinguishing characteristics of a military man; things like discipline, bearing, and how to navigate ambiguity. But the biggest change of self from military service was the fact that I got to refine a lot of skills and abilities that I already possessed before becoming a Marine. For example, growing up I always found myself in some sort of leadership position, and the role came naturally to me. But the Marine Corps gave me a set of core values to guide and compliment my leadership ability as well as a sense of service to others. In a way, the Marine Corps took who I was, polished it all up, and made it better.”
Tell me about your best day in the Marine Corps. Tell me about your worst day.
“I’ve had a lot of good days in the Marine Corps, including some that at the time wouldn’t seem like a traditional interpretation of a best day. But in the end, my best day was the day I became a Marine. The famous Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony, which signifies the successful transition from ‘recruit’ to Marine is an emotional and meaningful moment. On that day, I had finally earned my spot in the family that I never had. My worst day was when I was overseas supporting 1st Battalion, 4th Marines as an engineer attachment and hearing that my best friend’s unit in Helmand had taken a casualty. I was in a different country at the time, so it was hard getting information. In the end, it wasn’t A-Sal, but nonetheless, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion lost one of our own that day.”
What is your current position as a civilian and how did the military prepare you for that?
“I’m currently a junior at Brown University where I study Environmental Studies with an emphasis on sustainability in development. I’m interning next year at a management consulting firm in Boston and will most likely return there full-time after I graduate. Between a childhood spent on the streets and an enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, I feel prepared me for just about anything life can throw my way. But more specifically, the military gave me a sense of perspective; it’s hard to be intimidated by an Ivy League course load when I’ve been trained to excel in times of hardship and life-or-death chaos. Additionally, the military is one of the most diverse group of people I’ve ever come across, and that experience allows me to relate to just about anybody I meet.”