Friday, April 30, 2010

Land of the free and home of the brave

Granger Michael with his mother Celine at the White House in Washington DC last Friday
Granger Michael and girlfriend Brigit Moore at the White House last Friday
Celine and Graham Michael with baby Kebai

A beautiful morning in the Eden-like Rose Garden at the White House in Washington DC, USA, home of the most-powerful man on earth.

It is Friday, April 23, 2010.

President Barack Obama, casually and in a carefree manner for a man of his status, steps forward for this naturalisation ceremony of active-duty service members.

Among the 24 young men and women from around the world assembled here today is a 25-year-old Papua New Guinea, Granger Michael, who has already served three tours of duty in the deadly killing fields of Iraq.

The feats of young Granger are already the stuff of legend among family and close friends both in the USA and PNG.

His father, Graham, part Manam Island in Madang and Pila Pila in East New Britain and mum, Celine, from Panguna on Bougainville, shed quite tears of joy as Granger – resplendent in US Marine Corps colours – prepares to receive his accolade from Obama.

“To America’s newest citizens - it is a great honor to serve as your commander-in-chief, and it is my greatest pleasure to be among the first to greet you as a ‘fellow American’,” Obama begins.

“To you and your families, welcome to the White House.

“Today is your day - a celebration of 24 inspiring men and women and the remarkable journeys that have brought you together on this beautiful spring morning to our nation’s capitol.

“The paths that led you here began in more than a dozen countries, from Peru to Poland, from Kenya to the Philippines.

“Some of you came to America as children, holding tight to your parents’ hands as you arrived in a new world.

“Some of you came as adults, leaving everything you knew behind in pursuit of a new life.

“And while your stories are your own, today we celebrate the common spirit that lives within each of you - a spirit that has renewed and strengthened America for more than two centuries.

“We celebrate the love of family -- your moms and dads who were willing to say good-bye to their own families, their own countries, so they could have an opportunity to give you the opportunity you (sic) never had.

“Like generations of immigrants before them, they worked hard.

“They scrimped and they saved.

“They deferred their own dreams so that you could realise yours.

“So today is a tribute to their sacrifices as well.

“And I would ask that you join me in honoring your moms and dads and the families that helped bring you to this day.

“We celebrate the spirit of possibility - an ethic that says if you’re willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and apply your God-given talents, if you believe in yourself and you play by the rules, then there is a place for you in the United States of America - no matter where you come from and no matter what you look like.

“We celebrate the true meaning of patriotism - the love of a country that’s so strong that these men and women were willing to risk their lives to defend our country even before they could call it their own.

“It’s the patriotism of a young man from Papua New Guinea, who joined the United States Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq - not once, not twice, but three times. Asked why he would choose to become an American citizen, he said simply, ‘I might as well. I love this country already’. And so we congratulate Granger Michael.”

Granger Michael always displayed an interest in things military, according to father Graham Michael.

Mr Michael, a former Washington DC-based PNG diplomat whose father is from Dugulaba village on Manam Island in Madang province and mother from Pila Pila village in East New Britain province, is married to Celine from Guava-Dapera village at Panguna, Bougainville.

“We arrived in Washington DC on post in mid October 1997 when Granger was just 11 and a half years old,” he told me.

“Throughout his upbringing, while on post, he was very interested in all things military and that includes guns, tanks, airplanes and all sorts of military equipment.

“By age 13, his interest peaked and he decided to join the US Air Force's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at his school - Woodrow Wilson High.

“After his year 12 graduation, he joined the US Marine Corps as a fresh recruit at the Marine Corps training depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“The 13-weeklong training in combat warfare is the longest in any US military basic training and he eventually graduated with flying colours in mid 2004.

“After graduation he was transferred to his first unit at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Camp Lejuene is the home of the ‘Marine Expeditionary Forces in Readiness’, the largest Marine installation in the east coast of US with over 40,000 Marines prepared for war deployment at short notice.”

Mr Michael said from there, his son was sent to Iraq on his first combat tour in late 2004.

“After six months deployment, he returned to Camp Lejeune and was again prepared for redeployment,” he said,

“He was deployed in Iraq in late 2006 for another six months stint.

“His third battle deployment was from mid 2007 to early 2008.

“Throughout his three tours of duty, Corporal Granger was an infantry team leader with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.

“He served in Fallujah, Ramadi and other theaters where his Company was attacked multiple times by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“Today, he remains in active duty and is assigned to Marine Barracks, Washington, DC as squad leader.”

Granger’s 23-year-old brother Leon S Michael, second born after him, is also serving in the US Armed Services as an electrical engineering specialist with the US Air Force.

He is currently attached to the engineering division at Travis Air Force Base near San Jose, California.

“Our daughter, Renee W Michael, 17, is graduating year 12 in June and is looking forward to studies in environmental science at one of the local universities here in West Virginia,” Mr Michael said.

“Apart from the two big boys, Renee and our two small boys - Graham J Nagora Michael II, seven, and Kebai S Michael, three - currently reside with us at home.

“Although the two boys were born in Maryland and West Virginia respectively, only Kebai is a US citizen by birth.

“Celine currently works as despatch officer with a large freight company here in West Virginia.

“Although she earned her diploma in secondary education from Goroka Teachers College (now University of Goroka), she decided to change job when we first resided here as permanent resident.

“She has been with this company for nearly five years now.

“As for me, I am currently lead software design and developer in my Microsoft gaming business.

“I started my software company - Pacific Islands Simulation - in mid 2008 and have so far published two Microsoft flight simulator software products.

“I design and develop three-dimensional (3D) objects and terrain sceneries from various sources including NASA satelite images under the Microsoft gaming label for pilots flying aircrafts in real life and use these product as training tools.

“The software genre is also meant for those who simply want to enjoy as desktop game to hone their skills in ‘computer flying’."

“My interest in flight simulation software is obviously related to my background as pilot and longtime aviation enthusiast.

“The two products are currently sold and received very well in Europe through shops in Germany and Belgium) Australia and Asia, and here in the US.

“From the sales success thus far, I guess I may be the first Papua New Guinean to break into the highly-challenging software gaming business.

“I am currently working on a third product which should be completed before the end of this year.”

But for now, the Michael family is so proud of their son and brother, Granger.

“We are so proud of his accomplishments first as our son, second as a US Marine Corp serving and protecting US interests and aspirations abroad, and finally as family and friend to so many of you,” say Graham and Celine.

Both video and transcript of President Obama’s speech are available online, the video at and transcript at


  1. Anonymous9:41 PM

    Congratulations to Granger Michael. This is a milestone and should serve as a motivation for any young aspiring Papua New Guineans in this manner. Three cheers to Michael.
    Francis Dagg
    Perth. WA, Aust.

  2. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Congratualtions to Granger and the Michael family .As a PNG family now residents of USA and to be citizens of that country is a honor .All the best in the future in all the family does.
    A Papua New Guinean achieving great sucess
    in the development of gaming software with Microsoft is a great achievement something all PNG Computer science students can inspire too..
    Great stuff and keep up the work ....
    GO PNG...

  3. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Well done to the Michael Family. Just do not forget your humble roots as we are all proud of you.