By Fabiola Orozco
On January 2009, Michael Leal was called to provide security for President Obama’s inauguration.
“It sounds way cooler than what it actually was, because we just stood there off to a corner for a few hours in the freezing cold,” Leal said.
One year later, Leal was on his way to Afghanistan in a mass deployment.
“We were the biggest brigade to be called up in the state of Iowa since World War II,” he said.
His journey started in 2005 when he joined the National Guard at only 17 during the height of the Iraq war.. He had to wait for the end of his senior year to be able to start basic training. His first major task was assisting Cedar Rapids during floods of June, 2008.
“I thought I’d be sand bagging for two hours and I’d be getting a workout,” he said. Instead, his job was to travel the city by boat, looking for people who were left behind.
The Davenport native said that although these experiences have been unforgettable for him, his time in Afghanistan and the comradery he shares with the military members he served with will be something he will always value.
In Afghanistan, his job was to be a part of the bomb patrol. Leal and his team had to be the lead and drive through the path the rest of the military members would be going through, driving in specialized vehicles that helped the bomb patrol look for anything suspicious that could be on the road. If they did find something, then they were in charge of safely removing the item.
“Yeah, you can imagine how much fun we had driving two miles per hour looking for holes but we did get blown up once,” Leal said, adding that no one was seriously hurt because the vehicles are made to take strong impacts. “The terrain there is just so rough that if you don’t find them, you find them the wrong way,” he said.
He said they later found a video of their accident.
“The Taliban had filmed it for propaganda, and that was just really scary,” he said.
Nine years later Leal is majoring in sociology with a minor in organizational leadership and still serving in the National Guard.
“I value respect, hard work, friendliness and enjoying things; make the best of what you got, be grateful. The things I’ve seen overseas we have it pretty good,” he said.
His dream hobby would be to be a pilot. But Leal says there is one small problem.
“I hate heights, but I love flying. As long as I’m moving I’m okay, but if I look down all bets are off,” he said.