Story written by LINDSAY ROSSMILLER 406mtsports.com
2-time Purple Heart recipient Michael Christensen is a friend of the Tee It Up for the Troops family, and multiple time attendee of our REUNION event. To see how far Michael has come since we first met him is truly AMAZING and we are so proud to share this story about all that he has overcome!
BIGFORK – When Michael Christensen reaches into his pocket, he feels cool metal and ribbon – a Purple Heart medal – that serves as a constant reminder that had things gone a little differently, he very well may not have reached this point.
Christensen was serving as a lead vehicle gunner in Iraq in 2007 when his vehicle was blown up twice in the span of 10 days, injuring him to the point of forcing him to medically retire from the Navy after 18 years and seven months of service that began when he graduated from high school.
He still has shrapnel injuries, limited mobility, aches in his ribs and suffers the effects of a traumatic brain injury. But as he completed the 2018 Spartan Race in Bigfork, his fifth and sixth races this year, the Everett, Washington resident was smiling.
“Spartan gave me a portion of my life back that I never thought I’d get back again,” a Christensen said.
“My motto that I live by in my head right now is ‘Always try to be better than yesterday.’ And these races definitely do that. They make you work and when you get out here and you cross the finish line I mean it’s just a huge sense of accomplishment. I am stoked to have finished this race.”
Of the over 200 Spartan races around the world, many are broken up into different series and three main types of events: Sprint (three miles consisting of 20-23 obstacles), Super (8-10 miles with 24-29 obstacles) and Beast (12-14 miles of 30-35 obstacles). This year, Bigfork hosted both Beast and Sprint events on back-to-back days and the inaugural stop of the newly established Mountain Series.
“You just keep moving and it’s the days you stop – the days you can’t get out of bed or the days you can’t function or the days you can’t remember stuff (because my memory is horrible) – it’s those days that weigh heavy and make you think,” Christensen said. “That’s why you take advantage of the days that aren’t like that and come out here and do what you do today to combat the days that are bad.”
LIFE OF SERVICE
When Christensen was in third grade, he visited a cousin who was serving as a Navy pilot. That trip and his family’s legacy of military service stuck with him and when he graduated from high school, he gave up a golf scholarship to Washington State to instead join the Navy.
He served in a combat detatchment of the Naval Construction Battalion, also known as the Seabees, where he eventually rose to the rank of petty officer first class. Christensen served deployments all over the world – including Guam, Japan, Spain, Germany and more – throughout his 18 ½ year career.
“In the military when you wear the green tuxedo, you dance where they tell you,” Christensen said.
And in 2006, he and his battalion were sent to Iraq. They landed in Baghdad on Sept. 11.
“It put it into perspective right then and there,” said Christensen. “That right there, set the tone for the entire deployment for me at least.”
Christensen’s job was to ride ahead of the convoy in the turret looking for bombs.
“Every night we went out into enemy territory and protected a convoy of life-saving supplies for somebody else on a different base,” Christensen said.
“Our truck got hit by five roadside bombs, two of them in ten days. That’s where I got my two purple hearts from.”
After the fourth explosion, Christensen was hospitalized for eight days with two broken ribs and shrapnel injuries to his hand and shoulder after being knocked unconscious. He returned to duty ten days later.
“I’d have felt really bad if somebody who has a wife and kid at home who really needed and depended on them, went out in my spot and if anything ever happened to them, I couldn’t live with that,” Christensen said. “So I got back out there and did my job the best that I could again and a million to one odds that I got hit again the first time back out.”