Early in his military career, Mike Farrell received some advice that has stuck with him.
“My boss told me one time ‘Farrell, I want you to take away something from your time in Asia,’ ” he said. “Never, ever pick a fight with patriots. One man’s patriot is another’s fanatic and terrorist.”
Someone who truly believes in a cause and will fight for it until the end is a difficult foe to beat, and that’s a lesson that should never be forgotten in any situation, he said.
Farrell’s path to the military wasn’t always by choice.
“My father pushed me toward a life of service,” said Farrell, who enlisted in the Army as a private and retired 21 years later as a major.
As a child, he went to military school and after graduating, he went to college.
“I was going no place fast, so I went to the war,” he said.
Farrell went into special forces and was a paratrooper. During one battle, 26 men in his unit were killed. After the war, he visited the families of those who’d died. Some didn’t want to see him, and it was a sometimes difficult experience for those he did visit.
“One mother asked me to sleep in her son’s room. It was very eerie,” he said. “It wasn’t good for the psyche.”
Despite the horrors war leaves behind and the negative public opinion of the military at the time, Farrell continued his career in the military.
“It was a bad time in the post-Vietnam era,” he said. “When President Reagan took over, it was a good place to be.”
But he stayed in during that time because he enjoyed what he was doing in the military.
“I liked it,” he said. “I liked to jump out of airplanes.”
Farrell also served in Central and South America and in Grenada. He married an Army nurse, and they kept their careers going together. Her last duty station was Fort Gordon, and although neither of them had ties to the area, they decided to stay.
“It was a nice place to live. We moved here and saw no reason to go anywhere else,” he said.
After retiring from the military, he worked as a law enforcement officer in Burke County and with the Richmond County Board of Education.
Farrell said he enjoyed his work with the board of education.
“It was a rewarding position. I felt like I was a role model and could do things to put people on the right track,” he said.