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I watched Michael grow up, as he was a classmate to my son. I was their on-going room mother from Kindergarten through 8th grade. New Hope School is a small rural school where everyone is close. Michael was one of my kids and I was happy when he enrolled in the WIA Youth program (Workforce Investment Act Program) and had the opportunity to be his case manager for a couple of years. Michael was always looking for something better. While enrolled in WIA, he worked at the bus barn and in a custodial position but he didn’t seem to think that suited him. He wanted to do something more important. We ended up placing him as an assistant basketball coach and he loved it.
When WIA ended, he wanted to better himself and enrolled in the Army.  Michael worked hard to meet the goals during basic training. He would check in with me and let me know what he had to do to meet his goals. I always had faith in him but also a heavy heart about his enrollment with the Army. It was a negative feeling, maybe a selfish type feeling. Anyway, Michael excelled and soon was in Iraq, fulfilling his dream. He loved his job of protecting freedom. He continued to excel and this past year earned his sergeant stripes. I was proud of Sgt. Michael Bartley and more importantly, Michael was proud of what he was doing. After his 1st tour of duty in Iraq, he re-enlisted and was on his 2nd tour, when he lost his life, while teaching Iraqi soldiers. On January 15, 2011, an Iraqi soldier smuggled live ammunition into a training drill, opened fire, and killed Michael.
The day before his death, he told his mother that he was doing fine but working hard & in the middle of a big training exercise to prepare for a general’s visit. Michael always worked hard and was the best that he could be. Sgt. Michael Bartley was a assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat team, 1st Cavalry Division stationed out of For Hood, Texas. The Army changed his life and gave him that important job that he was always looking for.
Over 1,400 people attended Michael’s visitation. There were several hundred in attendance for his funeral where his mother was presented Michael’s awards & medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. As the funeral procession left the church, people lined up along the roadways from Orchardville to Maple Hill Cemetery in Fairfield. As the procession entered the 161 extension, a huge flagged draped across the road. As we passed Johnsonville School, every child a teacher waved an American Flag.
We saw the same at Cisne & Geff. One man leaned on his porch banister next to his flag with his head bowed as if in prayer. A week before the funeral, 1,000 American flags were erected along West Delaware and the Orchardville Road. Through every town, people stood with their hand on their heart or waved a flag as the procession drove by. When we arrived in Fairfield, there again was a huge flag displayed above the highway and another at the cemetery. It was extremely overwhelming. Actually, the respect that everyone showed in honor & in memory of our fallen soldier was beyond overwhelming. It was something I cannot describe with a word.  
We should all be especially proud of this former WIA Youth enrollee. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom & to help fight terrorism. As you finish reading this article, please quietly say, “Thank you, Sgt. Michael Bartley.”
--Submitted by Gayla Hutcheson, WADI Wayne County Manager


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