Thursday, January 31, 2008

Army Capt. Michael A. Norman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Michael A. Norman, 36, of Killeen, Texas

Capt. Norman was assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Jan. 31, 2008 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.

Stars and Stripes -- SEOUL — A memorial service to honor a former Yongsan Garrison-based officer who was killed last week in Iraq is set for Wednesday.

Capt. Michael Norman, 36, of the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, died Thursday from wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an explosive device in Baghdad, according to a Department of Defense news release.

Norman, who left South Korea in March 2007 after serving as the commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, was scheduled to return to South Korea and work with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion after his tour in Iraq, said garrison spokesman David McNally.

Norman’s wife and family had remained in the Hannam Village military housing area to await his return.

The 3rd Battalion, 8th Brigade, 2nd Division National Police Transition Team, honored one of their fallen officers during a memorial service Feb 2.

Capt. Michael A. Norman, 36, born in Austin, Texas, was killed during combat operations in Baghdad Jan. 31. He was a military intelligence officer assigned to the transition team.

Maj. Bryan Hunt, the chief of the 2nd Division NPTT, remembered Norman as a true professional, and an expert always looking for ways to help others.

“His candor and confidence was everything a team leader could ask for. It was easy to serve with Capt. Norman,” said Hunt. “He knew his job and was always thinking of how to develop his counterpart. He developed a system to report and track any type of (intelligence) that overcame a language and cultural barrier.”

Norman had many duties that pulled him away from his primary military intelligence function, and his Iraqi counterpart had no military intelligence experience. But, Norman was such a great mentor his Iraqi counterpart has provided more intelligence than any other intelligence officer in their brigade, said Hunt.

Norman is also remembered for his more personal side.

“In May, as Team Shark was formed, we met ‘Norm’ or ‘Normando,’ a man whose sense of humor helped bond this team as we all faced the unknown of (Iraqi Assistance Group) and Fort Riley,” said Hunt. “His sharp wit, professionalism and friendship will forever be engrained in this team. Norm enjoyed the Army, and he loved his family. They were his pride and joy. We have lost a great American. Norm, you will not be forgotten.”

Even though Norman was a serious-minded professional who liked to make people laugh, he was first and foremost a family man.

“Captain Norman’s love of the Army and his job were second only to his family. Anyone who found himself in company with him could see that within minutes,” said Master Sgt. Timothy Terpak,. “He constantly spoke of his wife, Chun, and his children, Samuel and Summer. It was clear they were his world. Not a day passed that his family was not mentioned in a conversation with him. He even used (a computer program) to paste (a picture of) himself into pictures to show his family that he was with them, if only in spirit.

“He will be sorely missed by us all. There is now a void where he once stood. He will forever remain in my heart and my memories so that his legacy may live on,” Terpak said. “I express my deepest sympathy to his family and would like them to know we consider Captain Norman a part of our family and we grieve with you. Norm, I miss you buddy. God bless.”

Capt. Michael Allen Norman volunteered for his deployment to Iraq. He wanted to be promoted to major and better his family's life, his mother, Beverly Norman, said Thursday. He felt he had to go.

"The one dreaded thing I didn't want to happen, happened," Beverly said. "We're military enough that I knew when a chaplain and a soldier came to my house and got out of the car with a folder – I knew what they were going to tell me."

Michael's family was notified on the day of his death. Michael's wife, June, and two children, Sammy, 9, and Summer, 3, flew in from Korea on Tuesday. Michael joined his family in Killeen on Thursday.

Michael's plane was late coming to Robert Gray Army Airfield on Fort Hood, but his mother wasn't surprised.

"He was always late – always," Beverly said.

June reiterated that fact on Thursday at the home of Michael's parents in rural Bell County. She said his tardiness was so bad that she would tell him 2 p.m. doctor's appointments were for 1 or 1:30.

"I hated it," June said. "He was always late – a last-minute person – except for his tax return."

Michael filed those last week, June said.

Michael and June met during a previous stint in Korea. June's roommate at the time was a friend of Michael's and had a crush on him.

"When we first met, we didn't like each other much," June said with a smile. "He was rude."

But then June told a story about Michael sneaking off post without a pass to see her. He rode a train, but had to walk a long way from the train station to her work because he didn't have much money. When he got to June's work, he pulled a single rose from his jacket. The couple dated a year and then married in September 1994.

"Just like he was with June, he was all his life," Beverly said. "All the old ladies at church thought he was God-sent. He knew when they got a new hairstyle or were wearing a new dress."That's because Michael cared about clothes, his family said.

"He has more shoes than me," June said as Beverly explained that Michael's shoes had to match everything he wore.

"We have every color of shoe practically, except red or yellow," June said. "Same shoes, just in different colors."

While Michael's favorite color was black, he didn't like to wear it in the summer, his mother said. Plus, June added, he liked her to dress in pink – like a princess. June said he was always calling her and their 3-year-old daughter, Summer, his princesses.

Before he left for Iraq, Michael and June had a life-sized cutout of the 5-foot-11-inch, 192-pound soldier made for Summer's room. Each night she talks to her "Flat Daddy," before going to bed.

A true Texan

The Normans are a military family. Conny Norman, Michael's dad, was in the Army while Michael was growing up. Beverly's family has lived in the Killeen area since Fort Hood was called Camp Hood.

Beverly and Conny met in Killeen. Michael was born in Austin in 1971, the youngest of two boys. He went to elementary school in Florence, spent his middle school years in Germany and graduated from Anderson High School in Austin. He got his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas and joined the Army in 1992.Michael was a Dallas Cowboys fan who played sports from an early age. He played football and baseball in high school, Beverly said.

He also liked playing the guitar, June said. He was always singing. At their engagement party, Michael sang Elvis' "Fools Rush In."

"He was a true Texan from the word go,'" Beverly said. He even has a gun story from his childhood.

When he was 16, one of his friends was showing him an "unloaded" .38-caliber rifle and shot him while trying to prove it wasn't loaded. Michael was shot in the shoulder area and sustained a shattered collarbone. Part of the bullet was even left in his arm because they couldn't get it out, Beverly said. But Michael was worried about his favorite shirt.

As his grandmother drove Michael to the hospital he said, "Could you slow down? I don't want to die on my way to the hospital. And when you get home, could you try to get this blood out of my shirt?"

Returning home

Michael joined the Army to be just like his dad, Beverly said. June added that he also joined to get away from an ex-girlfriend.

When Michael volunteered to go to Iraq, he told his mother that it was his duty to serve his country.

"I was really upset until he told me he volunteered," Beverly said. "What else could I say?"

When Beverly was told a roadside bomb had killed her son, she said she didn't know what to expect.

"One of my greatest reliefs is they told us his body would be viewable," Beverly said. "Then you say, 'Thank you, God.'"

Michael came back to Killeen wrapped in the flag of the country he served.

"When I saw the end of that casket come out of that (airplane) door, all I could say was, 'Oh, no,'" Conny, Michael's father said. "That's when reality really set in ... my knees buckled. (I) almost went to the ground."Beverly said it didn't seem real until Thursday when the family gathered at Robert Gray Army Airfield and saw the plane land with their son onboard.

His flight landed just after noon and stopped in front of a pavilion sheltering the grieving family from the midday sun.

The airplane taxied between two green firetrucks from the Fort Hood Fire Department, which performed a water canon salute. With high winds, spray from the salute reached the onlookers who never turned away.

An honor guard, dressed in their Class A uniforms, carried Michael from the airplane to the waiting hearse.

Beverly cried and was surrounded by friends and family. June held on to a friend and watched with stoic dignity as her husband was loaded into the white vehicle.

Once the back door was closed, the family turned to go inside, away from the wind. Beverly denied the offered wheelchair and walked with her family.

From there, everyone followed the casket, led by the Patriot Guard down U.S. Highway 190 to the funeral home to plan Michael's memorial.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at LifeWay Fellowship.

Following the service, Michael will be buried at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.

"Until the casket comes in, it doesn't hit you," Beverly said. "That was my hurdle. I think I can make the rest of it now."

Norman’s military awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal with two knots, National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, Korea Defense Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon with the numeral 2, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and Combat Action Badge.

Surviving Norman are his wife, Chun, his son Samuel and his daughter, Summer.

Army Capt. Michael A. Norman was killed in action on 1/31/08.


Chloe Lewis said...

My name is Chloe Lewis and I was a close friend of Capt. Norman's son Sam. I remember how fondly Sam always talked about his dad when we were in elementary school together. I feel so privileged that I got to know his family and my heart still aches for them like the day I heard of his death. I have been searching for contact with the Normans for a while and seeing this beautiful article has given me hope in finding my friend once again.

Anonymous said...

I was the Executive Officer (second in command) of the cavalry squadron Captain Michael Norman's team was working with in Baghdad when he was killed.
I was recently reminded of him and while I only knew him a short time, I was impressed with him.
God bless.

J. Keith Purvis
Lieutenant Colonel, US Army

HaveBlue83 said...

I was at loyalty in the motorpool the day Cpt Normans truck was hit. His guys were absolutely devastated when they rolled in. I had to do code out paperwork on his M4. I made sure his weapon was absolutely white glove clean when it went in for code out. I remember your name every memorial day and veterans day and whenever i think back to Iraq. RIP Sir.

SPC Evans

Bill Darling said...

I worked with Michael in Korea 1994, when he was still enlisted. He had a great personality, was smart and competent well beyond his years and grade, and was one of those individuals most men are drawn to. My fellow officers all encouraged him to be an officer and knew he would be one day. He is the only guy I ever knew to be lost in OIF and stumbled across his obituary while looking to reconnect on social media. While I wasn't particularly close with him, we enjoyed somwe good times and he left a mark on me. The news of his demise was deeply felt and can't help but feel the loss to his family, the Army, and his nation are tragic and devastating. I love you, man.