CAMP JOHNSON, Vermont –
Anshan, China, the city where Spc. Mike Liu with Bravo Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion was born, is about a seven-hour drive east of Beijing. It’s a modern city of 3.5 million people with towering skyscrapers that sort of make it look like Chicago. Unlike the wind city though, Qianshan Mountain is just off to the horizon offering spectacular views of jagged peaks that earned it the nickname of the mountain of a thousand lotus flowers.
With all of its beauty and amenities, Anshan is a far cry from the mid-region of China where Mike’s father used to live. Mike remembers visiting his father’s countryside town. It had no running water and limited electricity. Perhaps it was this modest lifestyle that motivated Mike’s father to work hard, get a good education, and become a lawyer. Turning life around was certainly no easy feat, especially since his father was the first ever to earn a college degree, much less a law degree.
Mike’s mother was equally industrious. As a middle school principal, it was natural for her to serve as a strong role model. She made certain that Mike did his homework and followed all the family rules. Mike longed for nothing. The only thing missing was a sense of real freedom.
Independence came soon enough. At 15, Mike came to Vermont as an exchange student where he attended 10th grade at Woodstock Union High School. Compared to China, where kids were in class until 5 p.m., school let out early. With extra time on his hands, Mike immersed himself in sports. He played football, ran cross country, and learned how to ski.
He finished his last two years of high school by transferring to Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. After graduating, Mike enrolled at the University of Vermont where he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
What drew Mike to the Army? The idea took root in his childhood. Like other kids, Mike was fascinated with military machines. Tanks, planes, and ships intrigued him. This fascination led him to the lost art of building models, a complex hobby that required a ton of patience and careful attention to detail. Later, while at the University of Vermont, Mike attended a military fitness class run by ROTC instructors. But when he told them he wanted to learn more about the ROTC, they said he was ineligible due to citizenship issues. The Vermont National Guard turned him away for the same reason.
Circumstances changed in his second year of college. Mike discovered a program called MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest). MAVNI is a recruitment program that allows non-citizens with certain skills to enlist in the military and apply for citizenship. It’s a great program that attracts talent and offers opportunity. For Mike, the enlistment process long and complicated, but he was determined. After a about a year, he finally joined the Army Reserves and earned his citizenship.
Today, Mike attends Army Officer Candidate School. After he graduates, in the summer or fall of 2022, he plans to be an ordnance officer. When not drilling, Mike runs a small real estate renovation and rental business in Essex Junction. His view may not be of Qianshan Mountain, but to Mike, the Green Mountain range is just as beautiful.