Immigrant to Army general: Michael retires

By Tisha EntwistleJune 26, 2020

Michael retires at Fort Leavenworth
Brig. Gen. Stephen L.A. Michael holds his retirement flag that he was just handed by his aide-de-camp, Capt. Jamel Jones during Michael's retirement ceremony June 24, 2020 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Eisenhower Auditorium, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Michael was accompanied on stage by his wife Sandra and Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General. Photo by Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Combined Arms Center-Training Public Affairs. (Photo Credit: Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Combined Arms Center-Training Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Tisha Swart-Entwistle, Combined Arms Center-Training Public Affairs

The deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center-Training, Brig. Gen. Stephen L. A. Michael, retired from the Army during a ceremony June 24, 2020 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Eisenhower Auditorium, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Michael’s retirement marks the end of a 32-year-career that began when he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and was commissioned into the Infantry in 1988.

Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Rainey hosted the ceremony for Michael. Because of the precautions in place for COVID-19, there was a limited number of people who could attend the ceremony in person and Rainey acknowledged the unique modified retirement ceremony.

“I will tell you, we could have filled this auditorium 20 times with people that love and have had the privilege of serving with Steve” Rainey said. “So, each one of you is representing a couple thousand people.”

Rainey said Michael was an officer of high character who is extremely competent and committed to the profession.

“I don’t know anyone that I would put at a higher level of commitment than you and your family,” Rainey told Michael.

Michael began his remarks by thanking everyone for attending in person or watching the ceremony online. He then said he had to say a special welcome to his four children, two in attendance and two who were watching online.

“You four are both my life’s joy and purpose, and as we transition, Sandra (his wife) and I, to this next phase of our lives, we do look forward to being much more a part of yours,” Michael said. “As parents, yes, and as friends.”

Michael first thanked God for the providence and blessings in his life and then thanked his wife Sandra.

“In me, if there is anything of value, anything gentle, anything kind, anything precious, it is all her,” Michael said. “Sandra has stood with me at my side through thick and thin and at times in front of me, pulling me along and when required, behind me, pushing me forward.”

Michael took some time to tell the story of immigrating to the United States from Guyana, South America in 1979 when he was 14.

Michael graduated high school in Newark, New Jersey at the age of 16. He said he spent his second through third year in the country at Essex County College, his third through fourth years at West Point Prep School and his fourth through fifth years at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

“On the advent of my fifth year in the United States, almost exactly to the day, I applied for my citizenship and received it a week and a half later,” Michael said. “I have yet to meet someone else that has had their citizenship paperwork turned that quickly.”

Michael said that his story could not be told in any other country on the planet, but only in the United States.

“What’s happening right now in our country can’t happen anywhere else on the planet,” Michael said. “Driving change for the people, of the people and by the people.

“This country is not perfect - you know why?” Michael said. “Because it is made up of people like me and you, human, frail, suffering from like passions but whom are also capable of great things.”

Michael’s 32-year career included deployments to Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, Iraq, Ghana, Nigeria, Israel and Afghanistan. He ended his remarks by reading the names of Soldiers he had served with who had died serving the country.

“I kept this for the last because after this I am not sure I can do much else,” Michael said. “Each day I pray that I am, and we are, worthy of such great sacrifice.”