Michelle Hemmer continues to serve country and community.

January 31, 2015

michelle_hemmerThe Millennials.

Editor’s Note: Sustaining a community and keeping it vibrant requires diversity on many levels, especially among age groups. An unintended movement the last few years has been the increased number of millennials who have taken a role in community and business leadership in Mason County. A millennial, also known as Generation Y, is defined as a person who was born in the early ‘80s and sooner. This generation grew up in the digital age and often offers a unique and fresh perspective to leadership.

This is the third story in our weekly series on the area’s millennials who are making an impact in our community. From time to time, this series may include some exceptions by featuring a member of Generation X, a person who is currently in their mid-30s to late-40s.

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – Trying to find the right fit for herself and her life, Ludington resident, Michelle Hemmer, 37, hasn’t given up on finding her dream career. In the meantime, she hasn’t given up any of her time volunteering for the community either.

Michelle is a 1996 graduate of Ludington High School and she received a degree in outdoor and environmental recreation from Central Michigan University in 2001. Not truly knowing if the degree she chose was what she really wanted to do for the rest of her life, Michelle decided to join the National Guard while in college and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

“I always had a slight interest in the military, but I wanted to go to college,” she says. “I learned I could do both. I could continue with school and wear the uniform by joining the National Guard and I could also get the financial help for school. I joined the Guard in my second year of college. I was deployed at the beginning of the Iraq war.”

Doing a lot of soul searching while in the Guard, Michelle decided that her calling was to the nursing field and helping others in need.

“I decided to become a nurse while I was deployed,” she says. “I still wasn’t ready to jump back into the classroom though.”

Michelle ended her Guard duties in 2006, but she was far from being done serving even though she may not be wearing the uniform any longer. Returning to Ferris State University, She received her nursing degree in 2009 and started looking for her special place in the world.

She moved back to the area to help her mother, Kay, take care of her father who was suffering from and then passed away from cancer. Michelle says she didn’t want to jump into a hospital job right away.

Coming back to Mason County was a bit of a struggle at first because most of her friends had moved away and she wasn’t really sure what she was going to do with her new degree, so she decided to start volunteering.

“I had no job, no vehicle and basically no friends back home,” she says. “Everyone had moved on, so I started getting involved in things.”

Michelle became actively involved with the St. Simon’s Youth Group and she joined the American Legion, knowing that even though she was no longer active in the military, she could remain connected by volunteering as a veteran.

“I help with all the volunteer activities the Legion is involved with,” she says. “I loved participating in the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. I organized the Memorial Day ceremonies for the last few years. It’s a way to continue serving and I hope that by the public seeing a younger female veteran, they will realize we do exist.”

Along with the Legion and church activities, Michelle also served as the president for the Mason County Allied Veterans Council for one year, where she assisted and continues to volunteer with the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Michelle was also active in the Traveling Vietnam Wall Task Force and bringing the traveling wall to Ludington last summer.

“It was definitely my biggest accomplishment in my civic duties,” she says. “It brought the community together in the way that they were able to be involved, view the wall, financially contribute and to recognize all the local veterans. It was great to recognize our local vets, especially those from the Vietnam era. It really promoted a lot of healing.”

Witnessing a lot of veterans viewing the wall, maybe for the first time because they have never gone to Washington D.C. was also overwhelming to Michelle and many others involved.

“I consider a lot of those veterans role models,” she says. “To see them show emotion was heart wrenching. In a way it made me feel better about expressing my emotions and that a tear isn’t a sign of weakness.”

Michelle has also been involved in helping with New Year’s Eve festivities, Octoberfest, Friday Night Live, Suds on the Shore and she has also been involved musically by using her piano talents to accompany many of the local presentations at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts and St. Simon’s Church.

“I’m choosing to be involved and not be at home, bored,” she says. “I met more people which got me more involved with the downtown board.”

A great deal of her passion for volunteering has come from her mother and father, she says, adding that she witnessed them throughout their lives give back to many different organizations.

“Volunteering comes naturally because of the examples set by my mother,” she says. “She is the ultimate definition of service. My dad also inspired me to get involved and to continue working with veterans.”

Getting the opportunity to build a large network, Michelle is hoping that through her service, maybe she will find that specific niche she is looking for in the nursing world, but in the meantime, she will continue to volunteer and help out her community and its members the best she can.

“I wanted to get involved before I had a family,” she says. “I know I won’t have as much time once I do. I encourage anyone to get involved in things. There’s no reason for someone to say they’re bored.”


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