By SUSAN TEBBEN
Glasgow Daily Times
Miki Padgett remembers a childhood abroad when his parents were missionaries, which is part of how he knows how to relate to other cultures and heritages.
This skill has brought him through war zones as he looked for improvised explosive devices and is one reason he is coming home to receive the Purple Heart at a ceremony at Glasgow City Hall.
Congressman Brett Guthrie will present the former U.S. Marine, the oldest son of Mike and Rosana Padgett of Glasgow, with his medal on Friday.
“This medal is more for (family) than anything, and now I can close the chapter on life in a war zone,” Miki Padgett said. “This is the last thing I personally needed, and it’s more of a showcase to show my family the appreciation for still giving me that unconditional love.”
Padgett, 35, joined the military right after high school and was in the Marines for eight years. He had grown up wanting to be a marine.
“We grew up around a marine base when my parents were missionaries in Central America, so I knew about it and I experienced it every day,” Padgett said.
As a marine, he loved the camaraderie, the brotherhood and the pride of being a part of what he called “the best out of all the branches” of the military.
He turned down an offer to be a commissioned officer in the Kentucky National Guard to commit to a tour in Iraq as an assistant platoon commander.
When he went, from the end of 2005 into 2006, he set out with a group to search for IEDs and was blown up four times. At the time, the effects of IEDs and the possibility of traumatic brain injuries had not fully been realized.
“Your brain gets shuffled around like a Rubik’s cube,” Padgett said. “I kept my medical records because I knew the day would come when they would find that out.”
Legislation was passed categorizing traumatic brain injury as a wound of war and Padgett sent in his paperwork to Guthrie, earning him the medal he will receive Jan. 13.
Luckily, Padgett hasn’t had any long-term brain effects, although he does suffer from chronic back problems and still has shrapnel he received during the explosions.
After he left the military, he finished his studies at Western Kentucky University, where he majored in economic and Spanish.
His international business minor and his experience in the military has served him well, he said, since he started a job with the U.S. Department of Defense, for which he currently works with the people of Afghanistan. He helps the Afghan people with projects and works with them to understand and embrace their culture.
“We passively gather information through just listening, in mosques, in schools, universities, what Americans would call ‘coffee shop talk,’” he said. “We are listening to the pulse of the people and giving people what they want instead of trying to force feed our ideals and culture to them.”
In working hand in hand with special operations groups on how to gauge people and showing respect for cultures, Miki Padgett received another medal. He was recently awarded an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) NATO medal for serving with the Royal Marines and Italian special forces.
He has also received Army Commendation, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement, Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign, Operation Enduring Freedom Campaign, Humanitarian and Good Conduct medals for his service.
He returns to his work in Afghanistan the day after he receives his medal and in talking about the future, Padgett is taking time as it comes.
“I take it about six months at a time, but I’m focusing on living in the now,” he said.
He would like to finish his master’s and get a doctorate in the future, in hopes to teach at WKU where he still keeps in touch with professors. He would like to teach a language, or possible the leadership skills he learned as a marine.
His parents and his girlfriend keep him grounded when he is away, along with his faith that has carried him through from Central American missionary work to leading forces through communities in the Middle East.
He carries with him a special reminder of why he continues and how he gets through the days: a tattoo of Phillippians 4:13 on his arm, which says.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Not only has his family and his faith brought him through his life, but they are to whom he dedicates his Purple Heart.
“This is more of a tribute to … how great a support system I have and the love and the faith of a girlfriend and parents,” he said. “I know a lot of people don’t have that so I want to make sure they know I appreciate it.”