25th ID deputy commander shares journey to America

| March 23, 2017 | 0 Comments
 U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven Michael, attributes his immigration to the United States when he was 14-years-old to where he is today, the 25th Infantry Division deputy commander of operations. Today Brig. Gen. Michael is the deputy commander of operations for more than 12,000 soldiers in the 25th Infantry Division, but his journey in the U.S. Army began more than 35 years ago before he became a U.S. citizen. Michael grew up in Guyana, South America, a country rich in dense rainforest located in the Caribbean Region. (Department of Defense Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal-Magarian)

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven Michael, attributes his immigration to the United States when he was 14-years-old to where he is today, the 25th Infantry Division deputy commander of operations. Today Brig. Gen. Michael is the deputy commander of operations for more than 12,000 soldiers in the 25th Infantry Division, but his journey in the U.S. Army began more than 35 years ago before he became a U.S. citizen. Michael grew up in Guyana, South America, a country rich in dense rainforest located in the Caribbean Region. (Department of Defense Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal-Magarian)

Defense Media Activity Forward Center-Pacific
News Release

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven Michael, attributes his immigration to the United States when he was 14-years-old to where he is today, the 25th Infantry Division deputy commander.

Today Michael is the deputy commander of Operations for more than 12,000 Soldiers in the 25th ID, but his journey in the U.S. Army began more than 35 years ago before he became a U.S. citizen.

Michael grew up in Guyana, South America, a country rich in dense rainforest located in the Caribbean Region.

“I tell people all the time I wasn’t really aware of the color of my skin until I came to the states just because Guyana was such a melting pot, at least from my perspective,” Michael said. “My father was actually very successful and my grandparents from my mother’s side had immigrated to the states and at that time, before I came, they were living in the states for about 30 years.”

Michael followed in his grandparents’ footsteps when his parents and siblings moved to the United States in 1979.

“I came over at the age of 14, and probably the first thing I remember was just realizing how cold it was,” Michael said. “Cold was not something I was accustomed to. We flew into New York City at night, landed at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and I remember just being totally fascinated with all the lights, so coming in was like showing up on a different planet. It smelled differently, it tasted differently, and was a very rewarding experience to the senses.”

Apart from the different sights and sounds Michael also experienced communication challenges during his transition.

“I had a pretty deep accent, and I remember initially just being very conscious of how I spoke and how I sounded,” Michael said. “In Guyana, a lot of the time, I was the guy getting in trouble. I was doing mischievous stuff, and then when I got to the high school in the states, I was a lot more of an introvert and part of it was because I was very self-conscious. I started stuttering and I never stuttered in my life. Eventually, I was able to overcome that.”

Michael did more than overcome language barriers as he neared his graduation when he received a letter from a United States Military Academy.

“First of all, It was a huge opportunity,” Michael said. “I was 16, getting ready to graduate from high school, and I got a letter from West Point asking if I was interested. I never heard of West Point in my life.”

Where some would see challenges in attending West Point, Michael said he saw blessings.

“Going there was an incredible opportunity and for me. … It was life changing,” Michael said. “I think West Point traditionally is taking folks from the middle class or lower class, and it’s giving them the ability to make something of themselves, and it changes their future and their life, whether they stay in for five years or move onto other things, or whether they make the Army a career.

“There are tons of ways to serve this nation,” he continued. “You can serve this nation and not be in the military, but I think that West Point for me was a great turning point. It introduced me to what I view as my life’s calling and has definitely had an impact on my immediate family.”

Michael said that when he looks at this progression today, there are many factors to thank for his success.

“The fact that I’m here today as a brigadier general in the Army of the United States wasn’t because of my own individual genius, but it’s really been a function of all the folks I’ve been exposed to,” Michael said. “I take most pride in the fact that I’ve been able to influence and touch lives.”

Michael said that the biggest thing that stands out in his experience is community, the fact that people are willing to help, neighbors helping neighbors, and that his story is just one of many stories.

“My story is definitely not unique; that’s the beauty of America,” Michael said. “As I look at my story, the biggest take away is that nothing is impossible. If you believe it and you dream it, it can be so.”

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