The Purple Heart Foundation had the opportunity to interview SFC Michael Foley, a recently retired Army Veteran. He provided us insight on how his 17 years in the military made him who he is today.
1. When and why did you join the U.S. Army?
I joined the Army on August 16, 2000. There are a few reasons that I decided to join the Army. First, I come from a very small town where jobs were pretty much limited to working in factories. Another reason was that I wanted to prove to my now wife’s parents that I was good enough to marry her. In addition, my grandfather was in the Army and served in WWII.
2. How many tours have you been a part of and what positions did you hold during those deployments?
I have been on four tours; twice to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. During my first two deployments, I was an Airborne Infantry Team Leader. On my last two deployments, I was a Platoon Sergeant for both a Rifle Infantry Platoon and an Anti-Tank Platoon.
3. What were your expectations prior to deployment and how did they change afterward?
I really had no clue what to expect for my first deployment. It had been so long since our country was at war and now the War on Terror was a different type of war than we had ever fought before. I just remember watching September 11 happen on TV that day and we were the unit tasked with the Global Reaction Force for the military. This means that you stay on a 2-hour recall and could be wheels up, on a bird within 18 hours. I guess I could say at first it was total excitement. I was going to go get the bad guys that hurt so many. You hit the ground wanting to win the war yourself, however, once you’re there and have been in the middle of a two-way firefight, you look at everything a bit different. I guess the best way to put it is that the guy that is beside you fighting with you is more important than anything else in the world while you are there. To lose just one is a lot of the time too much for most.
4. Do you have any stories you feel comfortable sharing? Maybe the most memorable tour? Or the one that taught you the most about yourself, and being in the Army?
I guess one of the bigger highlights of my career was that I was apart of the first combat jump that the 82nd Airborne Division had done since Operation Just Cause in Panama. Only 73 Paratroopers got chosen to be apart of this historic operation. Somehow I was lucky enough to get a slot. At the time I was in B Co 3-504 PIR. Our company along with Navy SEALS and 2nd Ranger BN jumped in to capture the third most wanted guy in Afghanistan. What made this whole experience better was that it was one day after my 21st birthday. It was not until the last few years that this jump was declassified and we were allowed to talk about this jump due to the high-value targets (HVTs) involved.
5. What are the biggest shifts you have seen in the U.S. Army from serving both prior and after 9/11?
Prior to 9/11, we used to go out in the field for a week or two at a time just working on small unit training. For example, we would work on basic infantry battle drills by ourselves with no other units around. After 9/11 and a few deployments. We then starting training similar to a base mentality. We trained as if we were working from a base rather than being out in the field working in isolation. The training changed to more “hearts and minds” and trying to win the people over, rather than trying to win the war. The training is now more focused on equal opportunity and political correctness than on warfighting.
6. How would you describe your life prior, during, and after the Army?
Prior to joining the Army, I was in high school and working at a furniture factory third shift. It was just a normal, mundane, day to day experience. My life during the Army was high paced and at times high stress. There was a lot of short notice with some of the positions that I held and many late nights. I have only been separated for about 15 days. So far, I am enjoying the time with my family and being able to relax. I plan to start school in January.
7. What does it mean to you to be a veteran?
To be a veteran to me means a lot but, it’s not like I am going out to buy a hat or put stuff all over my car to show everyone that I was in the war. It’s more of a self-pride that I am one of the very few that was willing to stand up and defend what now most in our country are taking for granted. I have had the honor to see great men do extraordinary things. I have also seen those same heroes break because of a loss of a brother. I guess to be a veteran to me is that I will never be alone even if we are few we are the strongest.
8. If there is one thing you could tell someone that is beginning their journey in the Army what would that be?
I guess the best thing is to realize is that you have not earned anything. Everything is earned in the military. Many of the people coming into the Army these days think that everything should be given to them. Work hard and show respect and that will get you a long way.
SFC Michael Foley has dedicated his career and life to defend this country and millions of Americans he will never know. Though he would not be one to accept many thank yous, it is important to understand the dedication of our heroes just like him. Men and women, like Michael Foley, that have dedicated their lives make our day to day lives possible. We can never express enough gratitude to Michael Foley and his fellow service members to show how much we appreciate their sacrifice. The Purple Heart Foundation has various programs developed to help support not only our veterans but their spouses, children, families as well. We are committed to assisting ALL of our veterans. It is our mission to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one. You can show your support for our heroes and their families and continue to grow and support the programs that assist them in making a one-time or monthly donation.