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Michael Hilliard's Story

In 2006, while on a mission, I was shot in the left side of the head. Luckily, my helmet took most of the impact, but it still produced enough force to give me a traumatic brain injury. I was flown to Baghdad ER, and eventually ended up at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. I underwent rehabilitation in hopes of rejoining my unit on the deployment. While I was back in the United States, I received word that one of my friends was killed in action. I remember feeling like I let the team down. I was not able to rejoin the unit on the that deployment, but was able to re-enlist to join them on the next one.

In 2008, we deployed to Afghanistan in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom.” We had a somewhat easy deployment, other than the 107 mm rockets making us stay on our toes. On February 16, 2009, one of those rockets found its way and landed next to a man that was our mentor, a father, and a husband. I will never forget that day. We were two weeks from re-deploying back to the States, and he was set to go to West Point, finish his last two years, and retire.

Now being back in the States, I did not really know how to handle being away from the guys. I was having some trouble finding purpose. I had already accepted my death, but I did not think about how I would accept living after. My wife convinced me to take a trip to the Dominican, and this is where I discovered diving. As soon has my head was underwater it was if all the weight I had been caring was lifted. I knew then that I had found something special.

Once I retired, I knew I would make a career of diving I just didn’t know where. I was about to take a job in Florida when I found Georgia Aquarium was hiring a dive master. I put everything on hold and applied, hoping for the best. After working there a few months I was slowly introduced to the Veteran’s Program. This is where I was able to share my story with other veterans that may have been experiencing the same issues as me. In working with this program it has truly helped me find my passion for helping fellow veterans.

Our home is 11 years old. It hasn't had a new roof replaced yet and It needs one. We had someone come out and look at it a few months ago, but they said there wasn't enough damage to file an insurance claim. He said the shingles were put on backwards and there are quite a few missing.


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I was afraid I'd need a new roof but they came out and and explained what they needed to do to make it last a few more years. Great. Did a fabulous job and so far so good. My only fear was watching them do their job on my high roof. By the way, I sell Real Estate and refer them to my clients too. Honest, dependable and reachable!

Carla Sweetwood
Carla Sweetwood Realtor Keller Williams Realty

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