Michelle Wager

Ret. SSG Michelle Wager (Michigan Army National Guard) enlisted in 1999.  In 2006, she volunteered to go to Iraq with the 46th MP Company.  Five months into her 15-month tour in Baghdad, a roadside bomb hit her vehicle, seriously injuring her and two others, and killing another two soldiers. The attack caused serious damage – Michelle’s left leg was amputated above the knee. We traveled out to her lakeside home to discuss her experience in the military and the difficulties she faced after losing her leg.  

After a long road of rehabilitation, her physical wounds healed and she learned how to walk with a prosthetic, but the internal damage from the incident remained.  Michelle was on a complicated cocktail of opioids, antidepressants, and other medications, and the drug interactions and side effects were taking their toll.  “I was tired of feeling horrible all the time,” says Michelle.  “So I decided, no more.”

Michelle sought help from her counselor.  He put her in touch with the right treatment center to get her off of the many prescriptions she was taking.  The detox process was painful.  “I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to die,” she told us.  But when she came out the other side, life was different.  She could interact with her emotions and process her experiences in a new way.

Michelle was completely open about how difficult life was after such a life-altering event, and was completely candid about her struggles with depression and getting help through the VA.  We gained a new look at how isolating such injuries can be as she talked about how people’s perception of her is impacted by the fact that she wears a prosthetic.  Nonetheless, her resilience and grounded perspective in taking each day moment-by-moment will be important in the message of Enlisted.