Journalism and public relations professor opens up about serving in the National Guard
[Papakie pictured below, taken from her Twitter @DrMis924]
Most people in their early twenties are just beginning to explore where their niche is in life.
However, Dr. Michele Papakie, a professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, knew exactly where her purpose was at this time.
“I joined the military when I was 18,” said Papakie proudly.
After growing up around her father’s base, Papakie knew that serving in the U.S. National Guard was her calling. Surprisingly, she was the only one out of her five siblings that decided to join.
Now, after 28 years of service, Papakie reflects on her busy lifestyle and how her time in the guard changed her.
“It changed me in a good way…it took years for me to realize it was a good thing,” Papakie said.
While spending time in over twenty countries, she still found time to get a doctorate degree, become a college professor, and even go skydiving a few times.
She explains her hectic lifestyle with the simple statement, “Whatever I’m doing, you are getting one hundred percent of me.”
However, throughout it all she found her most important role in being a mother to her only son, Derek.
“I was in Italy when my son was in kindergarten and the day before I left, he broke out with the chicken pox,” said Papakie.
Even though the duo may have lost quality time together while Papakie was abroad, they still found ways to bond.
“We live to do things and make memories,” said Papakie.
A few of their memories include attending the Olympic games in Vancouver and landing in the sanctified Stanley Cup playoff book.
Papakie’s favorite memory, however, was when her son decided to enter service himself.
Now that her son is reaching his own goals, she spends her time doing what she loves.
Besides her duty as a high ranking guardsman, she also spends time in the community. One of her main dedications lies within the Alice Paul House.
The organization serves the community by helping those affected my sexual abuse and assault, something that Papakie has been familiar with for many years.
In 2010, Papakie received an email that would change her life forever; the contents of that email were on a search for someone to serve in the Middle East for 6 months.
“They needed somebody and I said, ‘Hey, I’ll do it’.”
At first, Papakie thought that she would be volunteering in more general ways, but she soon found out that she would be helping tend to victims of sexual assault in Afghanistan.
“I didn’t expect to do that,” said Papakie.
Little did she know that she would change the lives of many through her efforts to adapt to a new situation.
Papakie was most recently applauded for her efforts when she received the Octavius V. Catto award, a prestigious recognition for outstanding service, this past February (2015).
On top of that, she also received the Distinguished Faculty for Service award at IUP.
With a handful of experiences under her belt, Papakie plans to continue her career in the Guard.
“Service is really really important to me,” said Papakie.
Michele Papakie has proven that she can thrive amongst her hectic lifestyle, juggling teaching, parenting, and service all in a day’s time.