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Honoring Our Veterans – Michael Keesey

Keesey is pictured with his best friend and confidant, Griffin.

Keesey is pictured with his best friend and confidant, Griffin.

Keesey’s Jump Wings earned in Airborne School

Keesey’s Jump Wings earned in Airborne School

keesey-uniform-2-colBy Kelly Alexander

Michael Keesey grew up no stranger to the military life. With his father being a Marine, he spent half his childhood on naval bases in Tennessee, Virginia and Louisiana before coming to Union, MO around the age of nine.

Keesey was very active in middle school and high school with activities that included track and Junior Honor League. He worked two jobs while going to high school and before his senior year, was a zone manager for McDonald’s.

After graduation, he signed up to join the Army Reserves and went to boot camp in Fort Jackson, SC.

In December of 2007, Keesey was back in Missouri in St. Louis, drilling with the Army Reserves 620th cssb.

As a Unit Supply Specialist in September of 2008, he was re-classed to MP and then went to Ft. Leonard Wood. The following December, Keesey went to active duty, stationed with the 108th MP Co abn/aaslt at Fort Bragg, NC.

In 2009, he drove himself to Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA, where he jumped with the Canadian Army and was awarded his Canadian Jump Wings

“Your first jump is called a cherry-blaster,” he said and explains that the pockets of your uniform are filled with cherry pies and upon landing you have to eat the smooshed up pies.

Keesey said jumping from heights of 800-1,250 feet and carrying a hundred pounds of weight with each jump was a nerve-wracking experience. It wasn’t something he wanted to do, but to earn your wings was somewhat of a rite of passage and it earned one respect among other paratroopers. However, he did suffer from nightmares about his canopy not opening even after his deployment to Iraq. “It was a lot of mixed feelings-from the adrenaline rush ‘this is awesome’ to ‘wait, this is really scary!'”

Unfortunately, one of his jumps did not go as planned and upon landing, he ended up on his back with the weight he carried on top of him. It was a night jump and the weather made for low visibility and stunned by the landing, it took him about 15 minutes to be able to crawl from his zone and be seen by someone who could help him. Today, he suffers from degenerative disc disease in his back and issues with his knees as well, believed to be from injuries he suffered from jumping.

In 2010, Keesey was sent to  Iraq, an experience which he describes as similar to being in purgatory. On MP watch, he responded to incidents that were horrifying to witness and left him with deep emotional scars.

When he returned to the states in March of 2011, he was assigned as a team leader with the 108th MP CO.

For the last two of his years in service, he worked for the Provost Marshal Office (pmo) 42d mp Detachment in the 108th inserting police cases into the police blotter. He made sure all the narratives were written properly and all t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted. He admits he liked the job and was very good at it, earning much respect among his peers. He was also given the opportunity to  attend the Warrior Leadership Course, also known as the nco academy.

He was released from the military in 2013 because of medical issues with his knees and back and also received a mental diagnosis because of the horror he witnessed in Iraq. Otherwise, Keesey said he would have probably made the Army a career choice were it not for his injuries.

Keesey came home to an unstable environment and to say the least, no support system. But rather than letting his experience break him, he used this disadvantage to build something he feels is important for others who have gotten out of the military and find themselves without a support structure. “Veterans are returning back to a lonely and closed off society that doesn’t understand them,” Keesey said.

These days, Keesey is going to school full-time to study psychology with future hopes to help other veterans who also have mental heath diagnoses. He has done research papers on veteran homelessness, addiction, PTSD and other issues veterans face. Currently, he hosts a facebook page called “Franklin County Veterans Club” which focuses on uniting veterans in the area and offers support for those who know what it’s like to return home with a feeling of social disconnect and isolation. Veterans can also use the page as a network to find jobs for example, or for having someone to just talk to or for other things they may have a need for.

Keesey’s stature may not be big, but his goals and his focus on helping others through what he has experienced are giant, and one day, many people will undoubtedly be looking up to him.

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