FLINT, Michigan — The pride when Major Michelle Hill speaks, is not one of a boasting nature but one to encourage others as she confidently affirms, “If I can, so can you!”
Hill resides in Flint with her husband, Lazerick Hill, and together they have two sons, Lazerick II, a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and Isaiah, a University of Michigan junior with aspirations of becoming an attorney.
With a smile, Hill shares her upbringing on Kellar St. with her parents, James and Gail Freeman, and sister, Lenise. Hill is a graduate of Flint Northwestern High Class of 1993. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Science degree with a concentration in Community Health Nursing from Wayne State University.
In addition to completing civilian education, she completed the military Captain Career Course and Command and General Staff Officers Course (CGSOC). Her ultimate goal is to become Colonel Michelle D. Hill.
Returning home after a week of duty, she sat down with Flintside to share her life story of a woman determined to be the best that she can be, her family and career life, and how she remains the centerpiece of her puzzle.
Flintside: There is an abundance of knowledge within you. Can you share with us where it all started?
Major Michelle Hill
: “Shortly after starting college, my father’s mother passed away unexpectedly. I started thinking about what I could do to make a difference and decided to go into nursing. I’m glad I did because it gave me insight on my grandmother’s death.”
Flintside: With the death of your grandmother, were there other obstacles or challenges that swayed you to stay in school?
“The reuniting of my grandfather after an extended vacation made me want to be here, home with him. After the loss of my grandmother, I lost my grandfather and my father. People told me, “Michelle, take a break,” but I realized if I quit school, I would not go back and finish. It was extremely hard, but I found my way, stayed in school, persevered through the pain, and graduated. This is why I tell everyone, “If I can do it, so can you!”
Flintside: What exactly have you accomplished thus far in life that supports your statement, “If I can do it, so can you?”
“I was a manager for Anesthesia Technician at a level one trauma center, Michigan Medicine, and an adjunct facility at the University of Michigan – Flint School of Nursing, where I instructed community health nursing clinical. My desire to serve kept growing inside me. I joined the Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) as a Direct Commission Officer to the Army Medical Detachment (AMEDD) Army Nurse Corp in August 2011. I served as a Nurse Case Manager and Squad Leader for five years. I am the Director of Nursing at a state-run healthcare facility in the civilian sector. I am Chief Nurse in the MIARNG medical detachment unit and Officer In Charge (OIC) for the covid vaccination clinics and the teams.”
Major Michelle D. Hill.
Flintside: Being a nurse, how do you separate yourself from death?
“In the military, our job in the nursing section is to see soldiers before and after deployment. We do not necessarily see service members who have passed away, so I don’t physically see that piece. [But], what I can tell you, we do see service members that come back and may have all their limbs sitting next to you and appear to be fine, but they are not fine.”
Flintside: When you say, “they are not fine,” what do you mean?
“Their mental state is a little different, and that is the hard piece! I see them leave, and I see them when they return home. It is heartbreaking trying to tap in and help when you already know there is nothing you can physically do to help. It is very hard to watch and difficult knowing our military assignments can be hard, and it does not have to be death. I do not watch movies or allow my children to play games where military personnel are shot at.”
Flintside: You spoke on the military side of death and how it affects you. How does it affect the civilian side of you in life?
M. Hill: “
In the civilian sector working at the hospital, it was minimum for me to watch and see death. With the loss of my first patient, I was distraught. I came home crying, and my father immediately went into reaction mode, thinking someone had harmed me. I had to learn balance. You must realize, you cannot save everybody because there are factors that do work against you. You do the best you can and try to have it where it does not hit you so bad. I still do not think there is a clear distinction between you being able to say, “it’s not going to bother me.”
Flintside: Has being away from your family, sometimes weeks and even months at a time, affected your home life?
“Fortunately for me, I have been married for almost 24 years, and my children were older and didn’t need me as much when I had that long 22-month stay during the pandemic. I was assigned to administer vaccines across the state. They missed me being there, and I missed them. My husband is self-sufficient. He learned to cook and clean early on, and we learned to eat whatever he cooked!”
Flintside: What are some last thoughts you would like to leave with our audience?
“Finish school. If you need help, don’t be ashamed to speak with your counselor. Lay your cards on the table. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, and my dilemmas. They are there to help you. Reach out to the college you are interested in. They will tell you what you need to do. If college is not right for you, learn a trade. There is a demand for them. It is hard locating plumbers and carpenters because they are retiring. There is always room in the arm forces. Everything is not in active duty. Get involved with your community. We have a gap in kinships. Our youth need mentoring. Parents and the elders need to step up to the plate. It is time to come together to build and unite as one.”