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East County Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019 1 year ago

Attention! This Lakewood Ranch High 17-year-old joins Army

Parents approved the junior's early entrance into the Army Reserves.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Ravencrest's Heather McMichael knew even before her son, Blaze, that he wanted to make the military his career.

"When he was little, the only thing he played with was those plastic, green men," she said. "He would always line them up. He still has all those Army men. I knew this was coming since he was little."

That feeling became reality for McMichael on Nov. 21, when her 17-year-old son was sworn into the U.S. Army Reserves.

"He's my baby," she said with a smile. "We raised a really good kid. I know he will excel and do well, and I couldn't be prouder."

Blaze McMichael is only a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School and because of his age, his mom and dad, retired 20-year Army veteran Troy McMichael, had to sign off on his military contract.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted him to do it," said Troy McMichael, who was deployed, on and off, for six years in the 1990s. "It's hard. One part was that I didn't want him to see the bad stuff I have seen. But everything I would have wished for in a solider ... that was him. When you see a kid working that hard to get physically fit, I wasn't going to hold him back."

Right after his junior year, on May 20, he will report to bootcamp in Fort Jackson, S.C. for nine weeks of training. In August, he will return for his senior year at Lakewood Ranch High while also attending Manatee Technical College to earn a degree as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Once a month during that time he will train with his unit.

His eventual goal is to become a neurosurgeon or a cardiologist.

Since he is so young, the Army doesn't not offer job training in the medical field yet. His first five years will be spent learning to drive military convoy vehicles. Then he can switch into the medical field.

"He knows the No. 1 goal is college," Troy McMichael said. "He can do it while he is in the military and he can retire at 37. I retired (from the military) at 41."

Blaze McMichael said he knew as a freshman at Lakewood Ranch High, after joining the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, that he was headed for a career in the military. Unlike his mom, he wasn't absolutely certain before then his lifetime ambition would include the military.

But the military did play a big role in his life at an early age.

"I remember going to the base (with his dad)," he said. "I remember picking up an M-60."

The M-60 is a very heavy caliber 7.62 mm machine gun. His father laughed as he thought back to his elementary school-aged son trying to pick it up.

"And if he knew we were going to drive the tanks (at the base), he was there," Troy McMichael said. "Where we were training was close to our home in Ohio. Our higher ranking people let him come. So he grew up with military guys. He was with them all the time. He was only 4 or 5 when he first started going. But we would let him see the weapons and meet the captains and the colonels."

Blaze McMichael, who has participated in wrestling, lacrosse and power lifting at Lakewood Ranch High, said he remembers all the photos his father would send from overseas during his deployment, and those photos always included his fellow soldiers. His father retired from the Army as a staff sergeant.

"Once Blaze joined JROTC, it showed me he wanted to work hard," Troy McMichael said. "I knew he was going to go in (the Army) and do the right things. He pushes himself harder than anyone else could."

Both mom and dad know their son has picked an occupation (driving convoy vehicles) that is highly deployable.

Heather McMichael said she worries, but overall, she is happy with her son's choice.

"I think the military leads to a well-rounded person," she said. "I didn't go into the military, but I come from a military family. It instills discipline, work ethic and stability."

Blaze McMichael has two sisters, 20-year-old Taylor, a nursing student at Keiser University who plans to join the military, and 12-year-old London.

"London is set to be our little lawyer," Heather McMichael said.

Troy McMichael was set to take his son out to "zero in" a M4A1 carbine and they continue to prepare him for his military training.

"All of a sudden, you wake up one day and everything clicks for him," the dad said. "He was your typical 4-year-old. You couldn't keep him in his seat. But I am very proud of him, the way he carries himself, of his morals and ethics."

Blaze McMichael said he is a little nervous, but he is excited about his military commitment.

"It's people doing things properly," he said. "You are taught to do things the right way."

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