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Pike County’s Soldier, Veteran of the Year honored

Pike County’s Soldier of the Year and Veteran of the Year were recently announced at Pike County Middle School. Assistant principal Paul Moon presented the awards. Command Chief Warrant Officer Four Michael A. Rich earned the Soldier of the Year honor for his nearly 36 years of service in the U.S. Army, serving in all areas of the work and currently commanding 13,000 soldiers and civilians in the worldwide theater as he orients strategic support through tactical level civil affairs and military operations as mission enablers for Combatant Commanders. American Legion Post 197 commander Bryan Richardson earned the Veteran of the Year honor for his ongoing commitment to honoring and caring for local veterans and their families. Soldier of the Year Michael Rich started his military career as a parachute rigger and quickly moved up to Pathfinder, Master Parachutist and finally, Military Freefall Jumpmaster (HALO). In 1996, he graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School. Since then, he has gone from a WO1 to WO4. In January 2018, he was promoted to WO5. Only 4% of warrants are promoted to the highest rank of the warrant officers. He currently serves as the Command Warrant Officer for U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne). He is also the first ever to hold this Command position as a warrant for USACAPOC. He is a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. His career has included multiple deployments to South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Honduras, Afghanistan (including the Helmand Province which is considered the most dangerous province), Egypt, Africa and Iraq. His awards and decorations include Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Southwest Asia Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge, Master Parachute Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Rigger Badge and number foreign parachutist badges from jumping all over the world with other countries. ’Mike is the absolute best daddy and husband in the world. He is our Captain America. He has a selfless attitude of service and doing for others. There is no doubt in our mind who the soldier of the year is every day, every year,’ said his wife Tomi Rich. ‘He embodies the line of the Army Song, ‘˜first to fight for the right.’ He is currently stationed in Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. It is about a six-hour drive one way but he makes the trip every weekend to come home and be with us. His number one priority has always been his family. Instead of moving our family to NC and taking our girls out of Pike, he made the decision to ‘˜commute.’ It’s just another example of his constant sacrifice for our family and this country that he loves so much. His second priority has always been his soldiers. I do not believe there is anyone who works as hard as he does on behalf of other soldiers. Regardless of what is going on in our lives, he is always available to his soldiers. I believe his selfless attitude and devotion to our country is what has made him so successful.’ Veteran of the Year Bryan Richardson was born near Fort Knox, KY while his father was a career officer. He was raised ‘˜an Army Brat,’ and following in his father’s footsteps, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 28, 1976. He completed his basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. After a year enlisted, he was accepted to the United States Military Academy and graduated on May 27, 1981. Richardson was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry branch. He spent 12 years in the Infantry and 10 years in the Transportation Corps. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger Schools. He earned a Master of Science Degree in Physical Education from Indiana University in June of 1990. His assignments throughout his military career included Fort Monmouth, NJ; Germany; Fort Benning, GA; the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; Fort Stewart, GA; Hungary and Bosnia; Shaw Air Force Base, SC; Korea, and his last assignment being Fort McPherson, GA. Richardson retired from the Army on May 31, 2003 as a Lieutenant Colonel. After retirement, Bryan and his wife Kathy settled in Concord, GA. He has two adult daughters, Barbara Pessolano and Christina Richardson and two grandchildren. From June 2003 until October 2014, Bryan worked as a military consultant for the Boeing Company and Booz Allen Hamilton. As a veteran, Richardson has been actively involved with the Pike County American Legion Post 197 since its 2008 reactivation – as one of its first members. Over the years with Post 197, he has been a Senior Executive Committee Member, Finance Officer, Judge Advocate, Historian and Commander. Richardson was involved in the refurbishment of the Pike County Veterans Memorial and expansion of the current Post facility. Through grants, he has acquired 10 tables and 180 chairs and a new roof, and is currently working on new heating and air conditioning units for the Post. Richardson writes the military biographies for Pike County military killed in action and first responders who have died in the line of duty. To date, he has written 43 biographies and has provided these for the Pike County Memorial Annex, veterans and relatives of veterans. He has read veteran military biographies at memorial services and funerals. Commander Richardson ensures that Pike County observes Four Chaplains, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Patriot Day, National POW/MIA Day, Veterans Day and the Pike County Memorial Annex Induction Ceremony each year. He and Post 197 members conduct occasional Pike Up Pike events to clean up trash and several Voting Registration booths each year to help promote the Constitutional right to vote. His ultimate desire is to help and honor veterans and educate the public on military history and veteran activities.

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