The evening of January 22, 2007, on a desert highway near Baghdad, a roadside EFP [Explosive Formed Projectile] exploded under the Humvee that Army Sergeant Michelle Rudzitis was riding in. Rudzitis lost her leg and suffered multiple other injuries. The driver, Army Specialist Brandon Stout of Grand Rapids, was killed in the explosion, as was the Iraqi interpreter, Kevin—a nickname given to him by the soldiers he worked with. The gunner, Army Specialist Derek Gagne of the Upper Peninsula town of Wilson, was also seriously wounded.
Seated at a picnic table at Traverse City’s Clinch Park Marina on two sunny Up North afternoons this summer, the Purple Heart recipient and Traverse City resident talked with Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine about the trauma of being a veteran and the challenges of building a new life. Sergeant Rudzitis is a member of the 46th Military Police Company, Michigan National Guard. Listen to a recording of the interview.