Veteran’s Day Spotlight - Michael Christian
Michael Christian is an audit partner based in our Irvine office. With more than 25 years in the accounting industry and a background in the United States Army, he brings a disciplined and ethical approach to meeting his clients’ business needs and engaging with his team members.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we sat down with Michael Christian to hear more about how his background in the army, as well as how his current status as a veteran has shaped him professionally and personally.
Michael, we thank you for your service!
Describe your background as a veteran.
I joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 1999 when I was in my fourth year and an in-charge in public accounting, having already passed the CPA exam. I always wanted to serve, but between college, college athletics, and getting my career started, I couldn’t find a good time. The Army Reserves presented that opportunity.
I received my officer commission in April 2001 as a Second Lieutenant, just months before 9/11. I was on active duty several times, serving in Fort Sam Houston in Texas, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Fort Lewis in Washington, and finally a very long year in Afghanistan, where I was near the east and northeast regions of the country at Bagram Air Base, Salerno and several other forward operating bases (FOBs).
Deployed as a Captain to Afghanistan, I served as the “J2” Officer (“2 shop”) for our task force, which included Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel. The J2 is the intelligence and security officer, so each day, I was responsible for monitoring activities in our Area of Operations (AO) and disseminating a daily intelligence report or INTSUM — much like public accounting, it involved lots of paperwork! Part of that role was the security of our task force, which meant traveling around the country with my Sergeant Major to perform security assessments, which resulted in some Chinook and Humvee travel — and some scary situations.
During your time in the Army Reserves, what were some lessons that you learned?
Communication: it’s crucial in life, but out there, it’s life or death. For example, one day we encountered a speedbump on the road. Now, these are common around the U.S., so we don’t think twice about them, but in Afghanistan, they’re rare. Nobody wants to go over a “bump” in the road, not knowing what it could be. We spent ten to fifteen stressful minutes checking in and around the speedbump before we eventually cleared it. Turns out, several kids had been hit on the road nearby, so a FOB commander had ordered the speedbump to slow down traffic. No one told us, and it created a tense situation — hence, why communication is so important.
You get what you get. Before flying into the country, we were issued our weapons without ammo. I only received an M9 9mm, and I asked the armorer why I didn’t get a M-16 or M4. He responded which a famous movie line from We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson that made a lot of sense to me later: “Sir, if you need to use an M16/M4, there will be plenty lying around for you to use!” (Now that was reassuring.) Still, nothing like the sight of 150 soldiers, fully armed, riding on a commercial flight.
Loss is real. Watching war movies and even playing video games aren’t the same as being in actual combat. In Call of Duty, the screen flashes red when you get shot or hurt, but you keep playing and look for a health pack to move on. But that little red flash can be all too real—when you get shot, you’re down, and there’s no reset switch. Loss becomes tangible. It makes you reflect but doesn’t change your resolve.
People are people. Over there, we were either “green” or “blue” depending on the armed services group we were in—someone’s race, color, or religion didn’t matter. We all wore the uniform properly and proudly, remaining focused on the mission first. That was all that mattered.
How do you honor Veteran’s Day?
I usually end up working since it’s before a busy Q3 filing deadline, but at some point, I quietly reflect. I think about those who have lost their lives, a limb, or their mental faculties, and count myself lucky knowing I would have gladly sacrificed if asked. I do encourage everyone to thank a veteran or active serviceman/woman for their service and what they’ve done. Keep it simple and to the point. But also keep in mind that we don’t need the thanks—we’d do what needs to be done with or without it. But when said sincerely, a thank you means a lot.
How do you think your time in the military affected you? What did you learn about yourself?
Bottomline: I grew up a lot. Sometimes when I see the new, younger staff we’ve hired, I’m amazed at how much more mature they are than I was when I was their age. But military service helped me grow up, be kinder to people, become closer to family and God, and focus on what’s important. I also learned what true selfless service and sacrifice are.
To this day, I still try to follow Army values—even if I’m not always successful.
L- Loyalty: to the Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers
D- Duty: Fulfilling your obligations and never taking shortcuts
R- Respect: Treating others with dignity and respect
S- Selfless Service: Putting the welfare of the country, the Army, and your subordinates before yourself.
H- Honor: Living up to the Army’s values
I- Integrity: Do what’s right, legally and morally.
P- Personal Courage: Face fear, danger, or adversity (both physical and moral)