Mike Shenk, U.S. Marine Corps – Corporal 1999 – 2003
Mike Shenk was supposed to be honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. in February 2002. Instead of leaving the military, he was sent to Iraq following 9/11.
“I was part of that first wave that you saw when everybody was crossing the border and all that. There are some news broadcasts on that I guess I was in,” he shares.
Being one of the first units into Iraq wasn’t easy. Shenk notes that several of his friends were Purple Heart recipients.
Shenk’s delayed departure from the Marines was part of a military-stop loss that was happening around the start of the Iraq War. He says it was an interesting time because people were uncertain about the future.
“I think we were just kind of on the edge, you know? Wondering what’s going on. Are we going to ever be able to get out?” he says.
Shenk joined the Marines in 1999. He served as an infantry squad leader responsible for the discipline and combat readiness of 13 Marines, including some attachments, he says.
He spent a year in Iraq before leaving the military. For his efforts during the war, he earned several commendations including a Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, and Humanitarian Service Ribbon.
Shenk says people tend to be surprised to learn that he’s a combat veteran.
“It’s something people don’t think about. When they do hear [that I served], I think it comes as a little bit of a surprise to know. Maybe not for any other reason than it’s something you don’t really think about – who’s working around the office that was prior service or anything like that,” he says.
Shenk has been in the tire industry for two years, working as a customs and logistics specialist for Yokohama Tire Corp. He joined the tiremaker from another industry to help them establish a West Coast distribution facility and a foreign trade zone (FTZ).
Shenk’s military experience helps him on the job each day.
“Having served in the military helps keep things in perspective. If you’re having a challenging day with your staff or problems with customs, it just keeps things in perspective. You say, ‘You know what? Things could be worse,’” he says.
Yokohama’s FTZ was recently established with U.S. Customs and Shenk is extremely proud of the part he played in its establishment, he says. He notes its establishment will have trickle down benefits for tire dealers.
“We’re committed to getting the tires in the right place, at the right time, at the right price right. That’s one of our mission statements. So [the FTZ] is in line with our mission,” he says.