OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Mike’s mother was employed at a bakery in Dallas, Texas where she became acquainted with co-worker, Jesse Fuller. They were married in 1959, and the family followed relatives to California, settling in Madera, California doing farm work. Three more children, Jesse, Patricia and Robert were later added to the family. Mike excelled in school and was able to maintain high grades and still work part time farm jobs to help out with family finances. During his teen years, Mike quickly realized farm work was not the life style he wanted to follow, and he began working at other endeavors. Mike and a female student, were the very first to be enrolled in the State of California Department of Educations “Work Experience Program”. The program allowed for their early high school graduation due to having met the required scholastic requirements and this pilot eventually evolved into a statewide program.
In 1968, Mike was at a spaghetti feed with some of his friends who were members of a CB Radio club. Sue Crawford was there with some friends also, and it was the beginning of a great friendship. Mike and Sue were married four years later and they had their only daughter Lisa, in 1977.
During midsummer 1969, Mike suffered an eye injury, and his draft classification was changed from 1A to 4F with the understanding, that if his vision was to clear, he could still be eligible for military induction. 1969 was the first year of the National Lottery Draft and was started during the time of the height of the Viet Nam conflict.
For the next couple of years and until his 21st birthday, Mike worked ranch jobs and learned many skills that have served him well to this day. Equipment maintenance, electrical, plumbing, and carpenter work, as well as a mechanics background have given Mike a basic knowledge of life’s skills that have gotten him job offers in many lines of work.
During September 1973, Mike was sworn in as a County of Madera Deputy Sheriff and he entered for the first time into the world of law enforcement. During 1982, Mike’s long interest in the military came to fruition when the State Military Reserve became an option and he enlisted in the Madera Unit. The transportation of heavy equipment was the vocational skill he had learned while operating heavy trucks. After being in the reserve for four years, Mike was promoted to a Staff Sergeant. In the fall of 1987, at the age of 35, Mike decided to apply for a position with the Fresno Police Department, ever seeking a more challenging career in law enforcement then was offered in the small Madera Sheriff’s Department.
Beginning with the patrol bureau located in West Fresno, Mike worked the midnight shift where drugs and gang violence was a nightly occurrence. Six years later, Mike was promoted to the position of detective, first starting in the burglary unit, and later working homicide. Mike involved himself in extra activities during off hours that were closely related to his law enforcement career. Working with the Madera County Sheriff’s Department afforded him the opportunity to be a member of their SWAT Team, the Dive Rescue Team and a Crime Prevention Advocate. Mike was active in the Sheriff’s Association and spent a number of years as their Treasurer, Vice president and later President. His tenure with the Fresno Police Department was no different, as he was elected to the Fresno Police officers Association as a Director and served 18 years in that capacity. As a Board Director, Mike spent considerable time developing political relationships with local, state and federal legislators that helped to serve the needs of law enforcement and the public. Mike took part in or chaired numerous committees, with his most notable being elected five times to serve as president of the Police Officers Research Association, Central Valley Chapter that represents over 80,000 law enforcement officers.
When the United States became committed to engaging in a war on terror in the Middle East, Mike realized the loss of American troops in the conflict with Iraq was becoming unacceptable. Americans were being killed while fighting battles that Iraqi soldiers and police were not participating and in fact, the Iraqis were standing down. Mike determined that in part, the Iraqi was not engaging in the conflicts because they had poor or no equipment in which to fight with. Mike felt this scenario was one that could be addressed by the military. Having the knowledge, that police safety equipment in the form of surplus was located all over the United States, Mike decided to found the “Brotherhood of the Badge” organization. This group, which began with only six people, started collecting expired and out of date surplus ballistic vests and other types of police gear that could be shipped to the Iraqi war front where American forces were training the new Iraqi Army and Police. The project started with a temporary re-entry into the Army by Invitational Orders issued by the 4th Infantry Division to assist the 649th Military Police unit stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo. Mike and the team of five others, including a retired Brigadier General were covertly included in a troop movement with the 1st Marines 125th Expeditionary Force from March Air Force Base to the country of Kuwait. Once in Kuwait, the Brotherhood of the Badge went their separate ways to the Balad Air Base in Iraq and the aircraft they were in was attacked while on landing approach and were forced to exercise evasive maneuvers and counter measures to avoid a rocket strike. When the plane landed at Balad they found it was under mortar siege.
Mike’s group was picked up a few days later by elements of the 649th MP unit, who were stationed inside an Iraqi Police training compound, within the City of Baquobah, Iraq. The route taken was through a corridor dubbed Ambush Alley that led into the heart of the “Sunni Triangle”. The aim of their mission was to deliver the assistance equipment to the front lines of the battle zone, the place where it was most needed. While Mike was at the station in Baquobah, several attacks were carried out on that post. The one convoy the group was traveling with, suffered several casualties to Iraqi police and regular Army troops. None of the Brotherhood of the Badge members themselves were engaged by the attackers. The trip was completed with their mission accomplished, and all returned to California safely.
An interesting side note during the trip was Mike becoming suspicious of pertinent questions being asked of him by an Iraqi Police officer within their compound. The questioning by the officer was that of a friendly encounter, but due to the nature of his questions, and those questions being reported to the U.S. and Iraqi command, the individual was uncovered as a spy and he was later executed for his spying activities. On two subsequent trips to Iraq, the delivering of fighting equipment was deemed a tremendous success to those who received it. This equipment was delivered and available to the Iraqis a full year and a half before the U.S. Military were able to accomplish the same process. In March 2008, Mike led the Brotherhood of the Badge on an expanded mission into the country of Afghanistan. The trip took the team to the nation’s capital city, Kabul, and to the U.S. controlled Camp Eggers. Again provisions for the trip were through orders issued by the U.S. Army. The mission of the trip was to deliver urgently needed equipment to a Northern Forward Operations Base, Camp Clark in the Khost Province. The mission was covered on Middle Eastern television telling of the group’s intentions, and as a result, generated a covert plan by the Taliban, to kill the team using a suicide bomber. The plot was uncovered and a Polish Commando Team took charge leading and escorting the team through the region. Many high ranking members of the Afghan government, that included the Prime Minister, greeted the group and requested that the Brotherhood of the Badge continue their assistance. As a non-profit organization, the Brotherhood of the Badge has outfitted over 27,400 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and collected almost three million dollars in cash that was used to purchase new equipment. The organization is 100% voluntary and takes no salary and maintains no overhead. By undocumented accounts, the lives saved by the Brotherhood of the Badge program have exceeded more than 40 individuals who were wounded, but were able to survive because of the equipment supplied to them.
As an acknowledgement of the efforts of the Brotherhood of the Badge organization, in the fall of 2004, Mike was given the prestigious Kenny Joseph award as “Officer of the Year” for the State of California. On the local
level, the Fresno Police Department in 2008 awarded Mike the Meritorious Service award for his contributions toward the war efforts and the resulting lives saved, and the bonding efforts with forces of coalition governments. A third acknowledgement came on Memorial Day, at the Fresno Memorial Gardens, where Mike was chosen as Military Honoree for 2010. A fourth award he received, was in February 2012 by the Fresno Police Officers Association, as the 2011 officer of the year.
In the fall of 2010, Mike joined the American Legion Post 11 in Madera, and in the course of only one year was appointed manager of the post and road captain for the American Legion Riders Group. This shows that Mike is a constant with having the abilities to help and support veteran’s organizations and causes.
On August 1, 2011, Mike assumed the position of Deputy Director of the Fresno based Veterans Memorial Museum, “Home of the Legion of Valor”. Every day at the museum is a history lesson for Mike who shares his days with the elder veteran volunteers of WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and Desert Storm. The museum contains a treasure trove of military artifacts, and Mike considers working here a continuing honor.