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Clear Spring soldier's dreams take wing

July 12, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CLEAR SPRING --Since childhood, Benjamin Michael wanted to fly.

But he didn't want to fly just anything. He wanted to fly jets.

Now, as a pilot in the U.S. Army, the dream of flying has come true, though it has changed slightly.

Michael, 30, graduated in May from Army flight school as a chief warrant officer 2 and a helicopter pilot, he said.

"I found in flight school that I really love flying helicopters," he said. "It is more difficult, there is a lot you can do (in a helicopter) that you can't do in an airplane. (In an airplane) you can't fly low without the doors on or hover."

Michael, a former Big Pool resident now living in Georgia, said following his dream required a career change.

Having enlisted after college, he worked his way to the rank of captain as an Army nurse.

He gave up that rank and higher salary 20 months ago to become a pilot.

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"Money does not make a job worthwhile," he said.

Michael said he enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, 2001, because he was fed up with school and he wanted to make a difference. He also wanted to do something more exciting with his life, he said.

The Army gave him a chance to use the nursing degree he earned at Cedarville (Ohio) University by working as a registered nurse, he said.

For the last seven years, he has served in the Army, deploying twice to combat zones, he said. Transferring to flight school committed him to at least six more years of service and one more deployment, he said.

Despite being so close to his dream for so long, he said his eyes kept him back. Michael said he lived with poor eyesight, knowing it stood between him and flying.

Laser eye surgery finally opened the door to flying, he said. While his post-surgery eyesight isn't perfect, he said it is good enough to fly.

The road Michael took to reach his dream was divinely guided, he said.

"I believe in living without regrets," the 1998 Grace Academy graduate said. "I believe God has a hand in our lives. I would not change a thing."

Michael said that had he not followed this path, he would not have met his wife, Jessica. They were married last year.

Nor would he have attended flight school when he did and discovered that, while he once dreamed of flying fixed-wing aircraft, he truly loved flying helicopters.

"I'm not usually one to get worked up or excited, but I am glad to be done with (flight) school, and I'm excited to get to do all the stuff I have been waiting for," he said.

Michael said he is gearing up for deployment, and soon will join his unit overseas and begin his post-flight school-readiness-level progression training.

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