I recently sat down with John A. Michel of Southlake to talk about his dad, 87-year-old US Army Sergeant (Retired) Andrew J. Michel, and his experiences during the Korean War.
I met John when I visited VFW Post 10454, stopping in to thank the veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
John is very proud of his dad, and it seemed fitting that this interview happened so close to Veterans Day. We were even able to get Sgt. Michel on the phone (“Dad never talks on the phone,” John said), so I felt very honored to speak with the Sgt. in person.
Sgt. Michel was born in Poland in 1932 and survived quite a bit of the ugliness that WWII brought, though his family was not Jewish. He and his family relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, where Sgt. Michel attended high school and graduated in 1951.
Michel joined the US Army in 1952, just in time to go to Korea.
“I was a young man with no parental supervision [in the Army]. I remember buying kimonos for my parents, though those weren’t ‘true’ kimonos. They were basically pretty robes that were sold to tourists and the military,” Michel said.
“One night, we decided to ‘go into town,’ where all of the entertainment was. That was during a blizzard, and snowplows were clearing the road. I had ice on my eyebrows! We got a few drinks in us and felt warmer. My brothers and I debated on whether to stay the night in town, and a few of us decided to head back. We went to pick everybody up the next day, and I left the brake on in the Jeep. That was a big ‘oops,’ but we got those guys back to camp!” Michel laughed. “One of the most important things in life is to laugh,” he added.
Michel was honorably discharged as a Sergeant on March 27, 1955. He attended the University of Akron (Ohio), but graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The University of Arkansas.
He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from 1959 until the mid-1960’s. After that, he moved to Pine Bluff, AR, working for Central Maloney, where, in 1968, met his (now) wife of 51-years, Shirley.
The couple and their family moved to Southlake in June of 1977, but left again in 1980, when Sgt. Michel was transferred to the FAA HQ in Washington, DC. He retired in 2003, and the family moved back to Southlake, where they have lived ever since.
Thanks, John, for sharing your dad’s story with me. We are only free because of men and women like him, who sacrificed and fought (and sometimes paid the ultimate price).
Sgt. Michel and John are both members of the “Airport Cities” VFW 10454 Post in Grapevine. Once a month, on a Friday, the Post hosts a steak dinner, which includes salad, mashed potatoes and dessert, for $15. The next steak dinner is Friday, November 15 at 6:30 pm. The Post is located at 221 North Main Street.
“Come eat and drink for the vets!” John said enthusiastically.