Friday, June 6, 2014

Michael Schlitz: Meet a Thrivor…and More

Michael Schlitz and Daniel Applegate
By Daniel Applegate
President, Arlington Memorial Gardens

For those of you following our postings on Facebook and on our website prior to Memorial Day, you’ll know that Michael Schlitz was the featured speaker at our Flag Raising Ceremony on May 25, 2014. We were pleased to bring Michael to Cincinnati based on his service to the nation as an Army veteran, but also because he has become a powerful voice of support and goodwill for U.S veterans, particularly for those suffering from injuries sustained as a result of service during the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is a reminder that freedom is indeed not free – that many Americans do, in fact, make enormous sacrifices in service to their country.

In his travels, Michael is frequently accompanied by his Mother, a woman who, by all accounts, provides her son with a strong, stable and dependable support system. However, during this trip to Cincinnati, a scheduling conflict resulted in Michael traveling alone.  Since he is unable to drive due to the loss of vision, I had the honor of accompanying Michael to an interview with a local TV media outlet.  I was grateful for the opportunity to become better acquainted with him.

As we talked, my mind turned to a popular book some years ago called Who Moved My Cheese.  It’s a parable written by Dr. Spencer Johnson of The One Minute Manager fame.  Who Moved My Cheese is about change and adapting to new realities. While Michael described some of his daily hurdles, it occurred to me that he was the poster child for decisive adaptability. 

For instance, Michael, who lost both hands due to an IED explosion in southern Baghdad in 2007, must plan to recharge the batteries that power his prosthetic arms within 12 hours or risk them becoming totally immobilized, a somewhat harrowing proposition particularly when he is travelling.  And, he further described just how easily he can become overheated as a chain-reaction result produced by his inability to perspire due to the burns he sustained.  These revelations were expressed bluntly, matter-of-factly. They were not complaints intended to provoke sympathy; to the contrary, Michael was merely providing a day in his life.

We all confront challenges in life.  Some of us become victims and some of us become survivors. Michael Schlitz is neither. Instead, he has risen to new heights despite his limitations and challenges and has become the embodiment of a thrivor – one who excels.

Becoming a thrivor is operating in rarified air. And yet, there is another term that might apply to Michael even though it is sometimes misused. One of Michael’s retired Army comrades who attended the Flag Raising Ceremony, who in fact was once Michael’s ranking officer, commented to me that Michael suffering injuries in Iraq did not make him a hero.  But, he explained, in light of the severity of the injuries, his ability to adapt and for his tireless work on behalf of veterans, Michael has become “damned heroic.”

I can’t say it any better than that.

Daniel Applegate became part of the Arlington Memorial Gardens organization in 2001 and has worked in the cemetery industry since 1981, including serving as Secretary/Treasurer and then as President of the Ohio state cemetery association.  He was appointed by Ohio Governor George Voinovich and served two terms on the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission, Ohio's cemetery oversight agency. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University holding a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science.