Hometown Hero: Using experience to protect and serve

Published 01/18 2013 05:04PM

Updated 02/18 2013 11:51AM

URBANA -- Born and raised in Central Illinois, he's a hero that's come back from touring around the world to protect and serve his hometown.

"I am, in the truest sense, a local. I was born here at Carle Hospital, so this is my hometown," says Mike Unander.

It was here years ago that teenage Michael Unander set out on an ultimate journey.

"I was probably your typical high school kid without a lot of direction," says Unander.

However, deep down he knew what direction his life would go; carrying on the family tradition of service.

"That's what my family does, we are very patriotic. So, it was an easy natural decision for me," says Unander.

Right out of high school, he joined the Air Force just like his father.

"The mental process you go through as a soldier, an airman, a Marine, it forces you to grow up," says Unander.

Especially when your job is dropping bombs on the enemy.

"You've got 19-20 year old kids over there trying to decide whether to take a life or not. That's a huge decision," says Unander.

Unander didn't spend much time in the skies. Instead he was usually in or near the front lines controlling air strikes alongside the Army.

"Our first airstrike, your first control, the first time you go into action and be responsible for that stuff, it's intimidating like any job. But I never felt like I wasn't prepared," says Unander.

You would think nothing could prepare a person for 13 tours overseas but whether it was for war or special government contracts, Unander handled it.

"The way I look at my past is that, it's brought me to where I am now, and I am proud of where I am now," says Unander who just graduated from the Police Training Institute in November.

He's only been on the streets for a few weeks, but why keep putting your life on the line?

"I wouldn't necessarily consider myself an adrenaline junky, but I do like the internal rush of the unknown," says Unander.

This rookie knows right where he wants to be, all because of where he's been.

"I plan on wearing this uniform for as long as they'll let me until they force me to retire," says Unander.

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