WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Like many military kids, Michael Wearda and his family moved from place to place. His father served for 20 years in the U.S. Army. When Wearda came of age, he, too, wanted to do his part to serve his country and joined the Army in August 2012.
“I grew up in the Army, and so, it was all that I’d ever known,” Wearda said.
From a young age, Wearda developed a unique resiliency found in kids of those who serve: a necessity in the career he’s led so far.
After basic training, Wearda would train to become a Chinook helicopter mechanic at Fort Eustace, Virginia.
“It’s the largest helicopter the Army has … I loved it, getting to fly on helicopters and be on the air, like, flight line,” Wearda said.
Wearda’s first duty station was Fort Wainwright, Alaska. There, he regularly worked on Chinooks in negative-degree temperatures.
“That was where I kind of got the foundation of what it, one: means to be a soldier, and two: be a helicopter mechanic,” Wearda said.
After five years of working on Chinooks, Wearda would change jobs entirely: working in counterintelligence in South Korea.
“We would investigate national security crimes, espionage, sabotage, that kind of stuff … you know, it’s sort of that anticipation waiting for, like, a breakthrough, or waiting for something super exciting to kinda come across your desk,” Wearda said.
As a counterintelligence agent, Wearda would provide support to his unit: teaching them the do’s and don’ts of reporting suspicious activity.
“It’s so extremely important because without people knowing what to look out for, they don’t know what to come to us for,” Wearda said.
While in Korea, Wearda befriended a hospice turned army chaplain who encouraged him to go down a much different path. When Wearda transitioned to the Army Reserve, a position opened up that would change his life forever.
“When they presented the ‘We Honor Veterans’ you know, position to me, I was like, ‘Yeah,’ you know, ‘I can, I can try and do that … that shouldn’t be a big deal’, and then, as I started, kind of, doing it, that was when the passion sort of developed,” Wearda said.
Now, as the chairman of Interim Healthcare’s ‘We Honor Veterans’ Program, Wearda works as a hospice chaplain himself.
“Most people become extremely vulnerable doing those times, and so hearing stories, and just living life with people, it’s, it’s extremely humbling,” Wearda said. “A lot of them are like, ‘Well, I don’t deserve that,’ no, you do deserve that, and let me be the first person to tell you that you deserve that … to be the support, and be the spiritual support that they need, that’s what makes my job so fulfilling.”
‘We Honor Veterans’ holds a get-together at Spears Restaurant & Pie Shop every second Friday of the month at 10 a.m. Wearda says all veterans are welcome.
If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at email@example.com.