Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Michael Schlitz, who served during the Iraq War as a member of a quick reaction force.
Michael Schlitz was born in 1976 and grew up in many states, prompting him to identify simply as an “American.” He joined the Army in March 1996 after graduating high school and planned to attend college afterward. However, his time at Fort Benning, Georgia, during basic training made him fall in love with the Army and he chose to pursue a military career instead.
Schlitz’s first assignment was at Fort Lewis in Washington. After a year and a half, he deployed to South Korea, where he served for a year. Upon returning to the U.S., he attended air assault school followed by Army Ranger school. Following his completion of Ranger training, he went to South Korea again in 2001. While there, Schlitz watched the 9/11 attacks on television, and his reconnaissance unit monitored North Korea in the event of another attack.
After Korea, Schlitz returned to Fort Benning and served in staff positions at the Ranger school for four years. In March 2006, he deployed with the 10th Mountain Division to an area southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. His division was a quick reaction force, providing immediate aid to American troops or allies under attack. Later in his deployment, he patrolled for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along roads.
On Feb. 27, 2007, Schlitz and his platoon were patrolling for IEDs when one exploded near his Humvee. Schlitz sustained extensive burns while three of his fellow soldiers died. His platoon extinguished the fire, and he taken via medevac to a hospital. In the following months, Schlitz recovered with the support of his family at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Schlitz medically discharged in March 2010 with the rank of sergeant first class. During his service, he received a Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal. In 2010, Schlitz returned to Iraq for Operation Proper Exit, a program that allows wounded Veterans to revisit the areas where they were injured and leave on their own terms.
Today, Schlitz shares his stories as a public speaker for service members and civilians. He dedicates much of his time to supporting non-profits and charities for Veterans such as the Gary Sinise Foundation. Over the past decade, he has been an outspoken advocate for Veterans.
Thank you for your service!
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Nolan Lounsbery
Editors: Theresa Lyon and Annabelle Colton
Fact checker: Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic artist: Philip Levine