What kind of recognition have you gotten for your Purple Heart?

[Last Memorial Day] there was a [Michigan National Guard] occasion on Mackinac Island. Twenty-five Purple Heart recipients were recognized. We got to stay at the Grand Hotel. I gave a little speech. We had a formal dinner that evening. The band played. I’d never been to Mackinac Island, it was amazing. My first experience and I got it all—the Grand Hotel, the gowns.

But you have some strong feelings about your Purple Heart.

You don’t want a Purple Heart. I’ve had people come up and congratulate me for getting a Purple Heart. I’m like, excuse me, you don’t congratulate somebody for a Purple Heart. Yeah, party. They got blown up.

And your feelings about the war in general?

This was Bush’s mistake because he was so full of BS. The one good thing was that Saddam was killed. I saw his palaces. It makes me sick that he lived like that and his people lived like poor people.

Governor Jennifer Granholm introduced you at her State of the State Address in January. Were you able to talk to the governor at all about the problems Michigan’s veterans face?

No, no. I probably shouldn’t say this but … Now, let me remember how she said this, because I almost fainted. I was like, I cannot believe this came out of the governor’s mouth. It was something like, “When your leg got blown off” or … no … it was “Did they take your leg or was your leg blown off?” That’s how she said it. It wasn’t “Hi, how are you?” It was: “So, when you lost your leg did they take it, or was it blown off?”

Did it get blown off or did they take it? What does it matter? I don’t have it anymore. I was like, “Hi, I’m Michelle Rudzitis. It’s nice to see you again, Jennifer Granholm.”

What do you think her deal was?

Just ignorance. Lack of knowledge.

If you could do anything with your life right now, what would it be?

Oh my god. [Crying] I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. I wish I knew. Ha. I used to have so many dreams and so many things that I wanted to do. I sometimes hate waking up in the morning.

I’m trying to be as normal as I possibly can. It’s not happening right now, but I’d like to live a somewhat normal life for as long as I walk this earth. I know I’ll never have one of these [she points to a yacht moored in the marina]. But I’ll take a fishing boat. I’ll be happy with that.

I don’t know what I’m going to do for work because I can’t stand for very long and I can’t sit for very long. I sweat constantly. I’m either sick or in pain all the time. So there’s no way I could hold down a job. I’d like to have a business, that way I can be my own boss.

This has been a hard, long journey so far. I’ve always been independent. But I’ve come to the realization that I really, really need some help.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowsk