OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) Mike and Julie Hert have always supported each other
“Julie is an incredible partner,” Mike says. “A beautiful wife, beautiful woman, beautiful person – and I am blessed.”
“[I] always have been extremely proud of Michael,” Julie says. “Whatever he sets out to do, he’s achieved.”
The strength of their relationship would be tested years later after terror struck the country in 2001.
Prior to that, Mike’s military career started when he joined the Army in 1976 at 18-years-old. He was then sent over to west Germany during the Cold War, assigned to 2nd general hospital in the medical corps.
“Get those soldiers stable, get them back to their unit, get them back in fighting form,” said Mike. “That’s what it was about.”
He’d get out after three years and was later commissioned as an officer in 1988. However, his service didn’t end there.
“I enjoyed the camaraderie of the military,” Mike said. “I enjoyed the friendship, the sense of purpose – of mission, a higher calling. It’s almost like you have to leave it to find out what you had.”
Years later, the events of 9/11 shook the country. Mike switched from The National Guard to the Army Reserves shortly after, knowing that he had to do something.
“I still remember that morning and Mike on the phone, ‘what are we doing?Do we need to go? What do we need to do?'” Julie recalls.
“I couldn’t in good faith go, ‘wow, there’s a war going on, I hope somebody else takes my spot,”‘ said Mike. “It didn’t mesh with who I was.”
Mike was sent overseas for a total of five deployments from 2004 to 2011 – two to Iraq, two to Africa and one to Afghanistan – when he didn’t even have to go. Using prior experience at Civil Affairs in Green Bay as a governance officer, and after serving two-terms with the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors.
“I was kind of one of the older guys out there,” said Mike jokingly. “We would work with USAID (United States Agency for International Development), with the State Department, and with the host nation. Meeting with tribal leaders, meeting with local government officials, meeting with conventional government officials.”
As she had always done, Julie supported Mike the entire time.
“The goodbyes never got easier, but I could have never stopped Mike,” she said. “I could’ve never said, ‘don’t go.’ As difficult as those times were for us and our family, I just grew more proud of him everyday.”
The missions and body gear took a toll on his body. Mike was medically retired in 2015 as a lieutenant colonel.
“You retire and you’re off the battle roster and it’s like silence,” he explained.
Mike knew he couldn’t sit in silence any longer, and decided to make some noise as a veteran.
“When you’re in the military, you watch out for your troops,” he said. “When you’re in the veterans community, you watch out for your fellow veterans.”
Mike and Julie have made it their mission to support the Disabled American Veterans, or DAV.
“It was like that purpose was gone, and this just brought him back to life again,” Julie said.
“What I really want to say is we [the DAV] are about service, service and service – and that’s what we do,” Mike said.
Mike the state commander for the DAV, and Julie is the commander of auxiliary chapter 17.
“For me it was important to be with other wives that have gone through the same things that I have gone through,” said Julie.
“That mindset of, ‘hey, I’m going to watch out for my brother, I’m going to watch out for my sister and make sure they’re taken care of,’ – it still runs today, and I can see that within the life blood of the organization,” Mike added.
To see a list of services provided by the DAV, their local offices and how to join, click here.