Michael Jernigan was born in Saint Petersburg, FL. While Michael was a child his father was in the U. S. Army and Michael moved around for a few years. While growing up, Michael lived in West Germany, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and Florida. Saint Petersburg has always been his favorite place. “The sunshine and water make the location a true paradise.” Before Michael joined the Marine Corps in 2002 he spent his time waiting tables and bartending at different locations in Saint Petersburg. Michael was 23 years old and a junior college drop-out when he realized that he wanted more from his life. On Michael’s 24th birthday he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps, thus becoming a 3rd generation Marine. Michael’s grandfather spent 28 years in the Corps and his father spent 8 years in the Corps before joining the U. S. Army.
“Independence is recognizing the obstacles in front of you, making the necessary adaptations and moving forward with the knowledge that although some journeys are more difficult than others, none of them are impossible”
As an Infantryman Michael was given the privilege of serving his country in different spots around the world. Shortly after spending 6 months in Okinawa, Japan he deployed to Iraq. On August 22, 2004 Michael’s Humvee was struck by an I. E. D. in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. He had 45% of his cranium crushed in, he lost both of his eyes and suffered severe damage to his right hand and left knee. Michael’s recovery was long and tedious. He went through 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months and spent 16 months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Michael’s marriage fell apart and he thought that his life was over. “I can still recall lying in a hospital bed in Bethesda, Maryland thinking that I had no future to look forward too.” Luckily he was wrong.
Michael drew upon the “never quit” mentality that the Marine Corps is famous for and with the love and support of his family and friends he made it out of the hospital and on his way to recovery. “The journey was by no means easy, I stumbled many times but stayed true to my ethos of evaluate, adapt and overcome.” With that in mind he started to move forward.
When speaking to groups, Michael likes to emphasize the importance of resiliency. “Each different part of our lives affects the other parts of our lives.” Making changes is not easy and Michael realizes this. His story of overcoming adversity and putting back together a fractured life is not only inspiring but uplifting and encouraging. Michael stresses the importance of constantly evaluating and reevaluating life. “If you do not know where you stand you will never know where you are going.”