Please Meet Navy Veteran Michael Rhodes

A common thread with most of our retired service personnel is how humbly and nonchalantly they share their experiences. Please meet area Navy Veteran Michael Rhodes. 1991 found Rhodes launching his Naval career at the Recruit Training Command at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, near Chicago. Upon his completion of “recruit training,” he left for his training to be a cook. Circumstances changed his career path, leading him to utilize his compassionate nature to easily resolve conflict. Rhodes did, in fact, see the world during his many tours serving as a cook, shore patrol officer, and supply officer. Somehow these different roles didn’t quite satisfy Rhodes’s quest as he volunteered to be a SEABEE. Rhodes transitioned from Active Duty to the Arkansas Army National Guard as an engineer. A training-related injury ended Rhodes’s six-teen-year military career. This did not stop Rhodes from supporting his peers, community, and our great nation by leaning on his two cornerstones for his leadership mission: veteran mental health and veteran suicide.  Please take a moment to Mr. Rhodes’ service history as retold by James Syler.  Syler with the V.F.W. Post 4562 has helped chronicle recording the service time of our hometown heroes.

Courtesy FB/VFWpost4562

One of the best traits a service member can have is often the ability to navigate change. Believe it or not, military service and a canoe navigating a river have much more in common than most people realize. Just like a canoe on a river, once you join the military, a service member is often at the mercy of the current. In both situations, you can make slight alterations to your path, but you are often just along for the ride in both. There is no better example of this concept than the military career of Michael Rhodes, the current Commander of V.F.W. Post 4562.

In 1991 Mr. Rhodes joined the Navy and was first trained to be a cook. However, after arriving at his first duty station in Japan, Mr. Rhodes volunteered for the Dependent Assistance Team instead of cooking. This group was charged with helping the families of those service members currently on deployment navigate the chaos that deployment can bring. Because Mr. Rhodes has a servant’s heart, and a desire to help those around him, this position was a close fit. During this same period, the base had a shortage of shore patrol officers, and seeing the need…the servant’s heart kicked in once again, and Mr. Rhodes volunteered to assume the additional duties of a shore patrol officer. Mr. Rhodes never stopped trying to help those in need; he always believed he could make a difference. During his time in Japan, Mr. Rhodes became fluent in Japanese, so when the local civilian police force needed officers that could speak both English and Japanese, he volunteered and joined as a translator. Mr. Rhodes knew that eliminating the language barrier often helped deescalate situations that could otherwise get out of control.

In 1993, Mr. Rhodes volunteered to go to Kuwait, initially as a Dependent Assistance Team member, but when the need arose, he ended up on the U.S.S. Blueridge…as a personal cook for an admiral. Luckily, the three-month tour on the U.S.S. Blueridge went without incident, and he returned to Japan to continue his many duties. During his six years in Japan, Mr. Rhodes taught English, coached soccer, and became an on-base taxi driver if that wasn’t enough.

After his time in Japan, Mr. Rhodes was assigned to the U.S.S. Nimitz, an aircraft carrier stationed in Bremerton, Washington. Once he arrived at the ship, he volunteered for an assignment in the supply department and was assigned as a shore-based supply officer. After the ship received orders to deploy to the Persian Gulf, Mr. Rhodes and his team flew to Kuwait to meet up with the ship to continue his duties as a supply officer. Unfortunately, while in Kuwait awaiting transfer to the ship, an issue with the timing forced the convoy to the ship to leave earlier than expected. Had the convoy left on time, Mr. Rhodes would very likely have been killed, as at the time the convoy was initially scheduled to depart, a car bomb detonated outside the hotel destroying the area where he was staying.

During the Persian Gulf deployment, the U.S.S. Nimitz’s mission was to provide air superiority for the Gulf theater. As was typical, the sailors would often go to a catwalk area of the flight deck to watch the planes take off and land. Unfortunately, Mr. Rhodes’s supervisor was tragically killed during a routine landing when an arresting cable broke at full tension. This loss hit Mr. Rhodes hard, as the supervisor had been integral to his growth and development. After a detour from the Gulf towards China, the Nimitz returned to Washington to enter drydock for much-needed upgrades, and Mr. Rhodes’s time with the ship ended.

You would think that serving as a cook, shore patrol officer, and supply officer would be enough for anyone…but for Mr. Rhodes, this was not the case. After his time with the Nimitz was complete, Mr. Rhodes volunteered to become a SEABEE. He transitioned from active duty to reserve status and was assigned to NMSB28 in Little Rock, Arkansas. During his time as a SEABEE, he learned to operate many forms of construction equipment. His time as a SEABEE was the happiest of his military career. So now…surely…after being a cook, shore patrol officer, a supply officer, and a SEABEE, Mr. Rhodes could confidently call it a career. Well…not so quick…not satisfied with calling it a career, he was discharged from the Navy and joined the Arkansas Army National Guard as an engineer. Sadly, not long after joining the Guard, a training-related injury caused his military career to end. However, this is not the end of his story.

While his military career may have ended, the fight for veterans’ mental and physical well-being had just begun. Between his active duty advocacy and his post-military activities with the V.F.W., Mr. Rhodes has dedicated almost 30 years to ensuring veterans and their families receive the help and resources that they need. During his time as V.F.W. State District 10 Commander, and continuing with his time a Commander of V.F.W. Post 4562, Mr. Rhodes has made mental health and suicide prevention a cornerstone of his leadership agenda. While his military service is something to be thankful for, his actions after leaving the service have made such a positive impact on the local veteran community. We want to thank Michael Rhodes, not only for his sixteen years of military service but for his almost thirty years of advocating for our local veterans.