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The City Journals

The Service of Veteran Michael Terry

Dec 01, 2016 03:41PM ● By Alisha Soeken

Sgt. Michael Terry makes lunch at a checkpoint in Iraq with bartered eggs and potatoes from an Iraqi vendor. (Michael Terry)

By Alisha Soeken  | [email protected]

Sergeant Michael Terry always relished a good challenge, so at age 20 he joined the Marine Corps. 

“To me the toughest and best are the Marines so that’s what I set my sights on,” said Terry, who had thought of serving in the military since he was a child. He joined the Marines in 2001.

Terry followed in the military boot steps of his grandfather Evan Ray Terry, who served in the United States Army during World War II and was awarded the bronze star medal.

“The bronze star is a distinguished award. Grandpa’s service was always something I admired and as a child I would often ask my dad about it,” Terry said.  

Paul Terry, father of Michael and son of Evan, is sandwiched between two generations of veterans. 

“I am proud of the service given by my father and my son in the armed forces because they defended things I hold dear.  This includes the obvious things like our freedoms, but it also includes things that make our country great like the rule of law, the sense of justice and fair play, the idea that the big guy should abide by the same rules as the little guy, that people should not be treated differently because of skin color, race, or religious beliefs; the idea that certain things should be held and maintained for the public good, like national parks and public lands, schools and great universities, monuments, museums, and laboratories; and a country where invention, discovery, science, and questioning assumptions in general are actively supported and allowed to flourish,” Paul said. 

“Finally, I am proud that they defended these things not just for me and those like me, but for downtrodden peoples in faraway places,” he continued. 

Terry started in a reserve unit close to home but soon deployed and witnessed the downtrodden in faraway places.

“It wasn’t long before the rumors were confirmed, we were told we would be going to Iraq. I spent seven months in the triangle of death in the Al Anbar province south of Baghdad. The Iraqi’s country was in shambles, they had no infrastructure to support the country, no jobs for its people and a lot of inter fighting,” Terry said.

While in Iraq, Terry served as a team leader, assisted in planning patrols, maintained his teams combat effectiveness and was the squad’s primary assault element during operations. After returning home in 2005, Terry was quickly promoted to sergeant and squad leader and redeployed to Iraq to lead his squad in combat operations, patrols and civil affairs such as building schools and water plants.   

Like many veterans Terry experienced difficulties returning home after completing his service in 2008.

“I think the worst part of serving was losing friends and reintegrating into society.  Coming to terms with your own mortality isn’t an easy thing to do especially when you are so young. It makes you live in a kind of hardened existence that really has no place outside of combat. When you come home it’s sometimes difficult to let down those walls and break the barriers we erect to protect your own humanity.  It took patience from loved ones, understanding and a strong support network for me to heal from some of that,” Terry said. 

Americans try to be part of that support network as we celebrate Veterans Day, a day that for Terry has special significance. 

“Veterans Day always comes with lots of emotions for me.  It comes three days after the anniversary of losing four friends in an explosion: Lance Corporal Shane Odonnell, Lance Corporal Branden Ramey, Corporal Robert Warns and Staff Sergeant Chad Simon. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the sacrifice of those Marine brothers of mine,” Terry said.

So as amusement parks, zoos and aquariums forgo charging entrance fees and restaurants offer free meals as support for servicemen and women on Veterans day, Terry believes honor is better given by personal pledge.

“On Veterans Day I think about the countless servicemen and their families that put so much on the line so that we can live peacefully. I think we owe it to those servicemen and women to do just that, live peacefully,” Terry said.