December 5, 2003, 21:53 EST
Recruiter goes from reserve to full time Guard
Spc. Stephanie Willer
He went to his barber for his usual “high and tight”, his boots were shined without a fight. His uniform was perfectly starched and pressed, he wanted to make sure he looked his best -- it was a symbol, to him, of his immeasurable love, to our flag “Old Glory” that rises above. The uniform he wears shows how much he cares for his fellowmen. Even as a young Scout he had no doubt that he would help to protect and defend.
Staff Sgt. Michael J. Girardi, a local Virginia Army National Guard recruiter in Richmond, Va., loves being a soldier. So much so, that he left a very lucrative position as a medical sales representative for an orthopedic equipment company based out of Richmond, Va. to work full-time for the Guard. Girardi loved his job working in the medical sales industry however, after 9-11 he felt that he needed to do more than be on standby as a United States Marine Corps (USMC) selective reserve soldier.
During the year that followed 9-11, a lot of Girardi's friends were activated for state and federal missions. “I felt like I needed to join them,” said Girardi. “I said to my wife, Cheryl, ‘Honey, I just can't sit back while the whole country is being called up, post 9-11,'” he added. After some discussions and a review of their finances, they decided, “We can do this!” said Girardi. After finding out that there were no USMC full-time slots available, he then contacted his brother, who was in the National Guard, to see if he knew of any active positions.
In December 2002, Girardi joined the ranks of the active component. According to Girardi, because of his experience with medical sales in the civilian world and dealing with people, signing up as an army recruiter seemed like the best choice to use his skills.
His time in the military had already spanned almost twenty years, 4 years of which were active duty. After graduating from high school in 1983, Girardi signed a four-year contact with the USMC, “My classmates were applying to colleges and I knew I was joining the Marines.” After his initial commitment was over, Girardi remained active in a reserve component of the USMC and worked as a crew chief for an aviation unit. He also went on to college at Virginia Commonwealth University where he majored in Administrative Justice.
Girardi recalled that from a very young age he had a love for the military. In 1973 as a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Girardi visited Quantico, Va. and saw the young Marines running through their training course. “I thought, ‘What squared away soldiers. That's what I want to do with my life.'” And so the patriotic wheel began to turn.
Girardi comes from a military family. All of the men in the Girardi family have severed in some branch of the armed services, which have extended from World War I to present day.
It almost seemed as if Girardi was destined to hold his current position. According to Girardi, his father once said “‘Son, either you will be a salesman or join the ministry someday.' I was a motivated kid. Nothing ever got me down. I have always tried to be positive,” said Girardi, who is currently at his ten-month-mark of his three-year commitment to the Guard. “It's been great. I love talking with people, especially when I see someone come in with maybe no direction or someone with a lot of direction, but who needs help in harnessing it into a college education. That's what we are here to do,” said Girardi. Adding, “The young men and women have the requisite intelligence but sometimes lack the confidence that we can give them.”
Girardi explained that the recruiting office likes to talk to area schools at least once a week to educate them on the military and what they do and what they have to offer to new recruits.
However, Girardi said that being upfront with the future candidate is important. “I have to be honest with my potential applicants and let them know that 54% of the combat arms strength is in the National Guard and that there is a 50% chance that, at some point in their career, they will be activated.” He said he has lost applicants due to his honesty as a recruiter but he feels that we need to inform the applicants so that they're fully aware of what they will be tasked to do.
Girardi explained that we are competing with the media who, unfortunately, gives us less then a favorable mention in the press, “But in reality, they [media] fail to realize that our country was devastatingly attacked on September 11, of 2001…and we were still able to remove or put on the run, some very bad people,” said Girardi. “The National Guard is doing more now then it ever has…” He added, “It is up to us as soldiers to realize that sometimes the pride and happiness in what we are doing, lies within us.” Girardi concluded by saying “I am proud of the uniform I wear and what it stands for.”
Girardi's professionalism and enthusiasm emits from his face as he talks about his past present and future plans in the military. He is a true salesman of his country with a patriotic cause supporting him.