An army veteran who’s traveled every corner of the globe, and seen some of the ugliest sides of humanity has finally found a place to rest in the Capital of Lake Cumberland.
Sergeant Micheal Keith Seiber is from a small town in Tennessee. Not seeing many opportunities there, he joined the military hoping to find something bigger.
“I’m from a pretty poor family, so college was pretty much out of the question,” said Seiber. “I just wanted to get out of that small town and make my own way in life.”
He went to basic training in Georgia in 1992 and was then stationed in Hawaii. From there he was sent to Haiti. The 1991 Haitian Coup incited U.S. involvement, and the turmoil and poverty there was the worst Seiber has seen to this day.
“You’d see kids get blistered by a truck. Just run completely over them,” said Seiber “People in America just don’t realize how good we got it. We got our issues, but we don’t have people running up and having you try to take their babies to America with you.”
The hunger was so terrible, Seiber had to escort garbage trucks to keep children from climbing in and eating the garbage.
“When the back of the garbage truck opened up to dump it out, you’d have 7… 8-year-old kids hanging on the back of it trying to get what food they could find out of it,” said Seiber. “They actually lived in the garbage dump.”
He was discharged in 1995, but his transition back to the “real world” was rocky. He felt out of place, so after just two short years, he was back in uniform.
“(It’s) just things you miss,” said Seiber. “The camaraderie with those guys. They become more like family than just someone you know.”
He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas and deployed to Bosnia from there. He called Bosnia the most beautiful country in the world. He couldn’t reconcile the Bosnian landscape with the genocide he helped clean up after.
“We spent a lot of time on the road trying to find (President Slobodan Milošević),” he said. “Dealing with mass graves where they had buried a lot of Bosnians. Mainly it was just trying to make sure the Serbs weren’t getting any more support.
He went to Korea in 2002 where he spent a year as an instructor, then spent the next five years in the demilitarized zone.
After his time in Korea, he went to Iraq after only two months back in Fort Hood. At this point, he was in charge of his own soldiers, who he had to protect from active combat.
“You’re like a dad, because you got all these young guys working for you. Get them all together and just brief them before they went out. Take a few moments to pray or do whatever you got to do, because we’ve got missions to do, and we have no idea what the outcome of today is going to be,” he said.
Still, Seiber said he preferred being under fire to telling a mother that her son got killed, which he often had to do back in Texas.
Despite this Seiber said he loved Iraq and it was his “favorite” country that he’d been deployed to. He taught football to children while deployed there and said that the bonds he made with the people there helped him see the brighter side of humanity behind the terror.
“When you go out and see the innocence of the children who don’t really understand what’s going on. They’re standing out there waiving at you and trying to talk to you,” he said. “It just made you feel like you were doing something positive for somebody.”
Seiber was on the last convoy out of Iraq, and from there he went to Cairo, Egypt. He also went to Afghanistan where there had been a bloody shooting at a school for girls.
“Taliban came in there and killed a bunch of little girls. A bunch,” he said. “That was just something they were doing all the time.”
Seeing the most recent school shootings after the memories of Afghanistan makes Seiber feel he has to scan his surroundings when he finally returned to civilian life for good. He’s older than when he first discharged and has three kids and a wife, but he still finds it hard to reacclimate.
“(Ex-military) is so much different than what I thought it’d be. The military just does not prepare these soldiers for when they get out. They transition from a normal life to a very structured life to a normal life. Decisions can just be hard to make,” Seiber said. “Even where you want to live is difficult. You want to stay close to the military base, but you also want to get away from it.”
The military’s promise of a free career can end up being a burden of choice. Seiber said that deciding on what he would want to be besides a service member felt insurmountable. Starting school at 50, he wasn’t the typical college kid.
He tried business and criminal justice. But he finally settled on cybersecurity, where he uses his memories of talking to people living under hostile foreign governments and applies it to finding out what hackers may want to find out and ways foreign intelligence infiltrates U.S. cyberspace.
His family finally settled down in Somerset. It’s far less crowded than Fort Hood, and Seiber said that’s perfect for him. The small town atmosphere is a good change of pace from Texas.
“It’s almost hard to get use to how friendly the people here actually are,” said Seiber. “It’s a so much warmer place to live. People see you, and even if they don’t know you, people walk by and say ‘Hey how are you doing? It’s been really good for my children here. My daughter, she’s excelled in cross country and track. My son’s doing cross country. And my oldest daughter. She’s at UK. She’s on the marching band for the Kentucky Wildcats!”
Added Seiber, “I told my wife, ‘This is our home for the rest of our lives.’”