(For Mike, the highpoint of the NATO training was working with a simulator. Trainees would see a pinpoint appear on a screen, along with sound effects to match, and there came incoming planes, any one of 35 aircraft. The trainee had to decide which was friend and which foe, then “shoot” each with a laser beam and watch the plane blow up on the screen. Among Mike’s trainees were regulars like the British Special Forces, along with the occasional dignitary, like the time the Prime Minister of Ukraine, contemplating a purchase of Stingers, stopped in to check out Mike’s operation.)
After Germany, the Army wanted Mike to “go ride on tanks” and that’s when he decided it was time to try civilian life. He had a sweet assignment lined up, working for a military contractor in El Paso, but abrupt changes in the company’s fortunes put an end to that plan and instead he went to school to become a truck driver. He drove semis for four years but, as Mike explained, “by then I was married and had babies and my wife said, ‘You need to come home.’”
Mike’s uncle, who lived in Phoenix, offered him a job doing maintenance work for apartment complexes, contingent on being ready to start on the upcoming Monday. So Mike and the family made an instant move to the Valley and settled in Phoenix. It turned out that Mike had a knack for the job – he was nominated five times for Maintenance Supervisor of the Year by the Arizona Multifamily Association.
Despite devoting himself to his job, he ended up starting a business of his own, cleaning offices at night. While Mike eventually moved to Mesa and ended up getting divorced, his business has been a constant for ten years now. Even with his fulltime job at The Resort and Silveridge, he still spends three evenings a week and Sundays on his cleaning company. He says of holding two jobs, “I start at five in the mornings at the parks, and I’m done in the early afternoon. Then I go into the cleaning business in the evening.” Mike shrugged, smiled and said simply, “I work a lot.”
And now, as promised, we can get back to that high school sweetheart, Manissa…
She recently found Mike on social media and the two renewed their friendship. When I asked Mike if he had any photos from his football days or time in the military, he said he didn’t, but that his old girlfriend had recently sent photos from high school. He passed along one of him, plus a classic one from the school prom: