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Michigan Guardsman Keeps State Funeral Connected

By Staff Sgt. Alec Lloyd, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Dec. 31, 2006 – Like many Michigan National Guardsmen, Army Sgt. Mike Christian was awakened by a midnight phone call informing him of the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Mike Christian, of the Michigan National Guard, runs wire to support the deployment of more than 500 National Guard members to Grand Rapids to support the state funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford. Ford will be buried in Grand Rapids on Jan. 3. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Unlike other soldiers and airmen across the state, Christian’s job began almost immediately, for it was the task of his unit to supply the wiring, hardware and computer support to permit the deployment of more than 500 National Guard members to Grand Rapids.

Ford will be buried at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum here Jan. 3.

One of six members activated from Joint Force Headquarters to set up the Forward Joint Information Bureau and Forward Joint Operations Center, Christian and his unit have spent long hours running wire and checking connections to ensure that activated units deploying to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel would be linked into the state and national communications structure when they arrived. They have laid more than 7,000 feet -- or a mile and a half -- of telephone wire and fiber optic cable.

While the work is demanding and sleep is fleeting -- for the first two days he received only four hours of sleep per night -- Christian said he is proud to be a part of former President Ford’s state funeral honors.

“It’s a piece of history, and he was a Michigan fan,” Christian said, noting that Ford was an outstanding athlete at the University of Michigan and a long-time supporter of the school. “I’ll do anything for another Michigan fan.”

A resident of Charlotte, Christian will soon deploy overseas with the 177th Military Police Brigade. “I volunteered,” he said.

He has already deployed to Iraq for 14 months, from October 2004 to November 2005. He is a full-time technician at JFHQ in Lansing and will serve as administrative support during his upcoming tour.

Christian’s job here will continue after the state funeral is complete: his unit will have to recover all of the cable and equipment and reset the local phones.

This means that his lightest business is when the wires are in and everything is operational – unlike the other units, which will be most heavily tasked when the former president’s remains arrive.

“It’s not so bad,” he said. “I’m a beginning and end guy. The middle part is the easiest for me.”

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Related Sites:
Special report: Honoring Gerald R. Ford

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