|Michael Petersheim||Michael Petersheim
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Michael Petersheim: A Soldier's Story

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July 8, 2016
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Not many people would immediately put a passion for art and military service in the same sphere. But for Michael Petersheim, the two went hand in hand from an early age. You can feel the passion in his voice when he talks about either topic, even with his matter-of-fact tone. He describes himself as "the artsy one," in his family, and when asked why he joined the Marine Corps, he simply said this:

“Not to let my ego inflate… but I kind of considered myself pretty damn good at what I did, and I figured that if the Marines had the best then I might as well be part of the best.”

Petersheim originally entered the marines in 2009 with his eyes set on the position of Combat Artist. After learning that that job was no longer available, he transitioned into Combat Photographer and then Defense Information. But that didn't stop him from illustrating.

"... if someone was retiring or if we were working with a foreign military... I would create illustrations to go with the plaques that we would hand out to them... [It was] something that was a little more meaningful than just slapping some graphics together on the computer."

[caption id="attachment_4953" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

Source: Michael Petersheim

Source: Michael Petersheim[/caption]After leaving the Marines in 2014, Petersheim entered the civilian world. Transitioning was not easy. The VA lists some of the struggles that Veterans face upon re-entry as "Joining or creating a community," "Creating structure," and "Adjusting to providing basic necessities."Michael's first realization of it came during tax season.

“When I first got hit with property taxes… I was at a point where I was juggling school, a part time job, my photography [work] and paying off a mortgage… I guess I got hit with tax shock… I realized my number one concern from then on out was always going to be money.”

Other challenges surfaced, as he took on the responsibilities of a student, a worker, and a homeowner.

“I have a different respect for students now than I did when I was in the military… As a student you’ve got to [take care of] yourself, whereas in the military you always have somebody to tell you what to do… I was an E5, I was a Sergeant, I had marines underneath me… but I was still taking orders… I always had somebody telling me what to do, to tell other people what to do… It made me realize how easy it was to succeed in the military.”

Michael credits the military for his ability to manage his time between school and work, and to shy away from the typical distractions that students face, such as video games. These habits have helped him succeed in a field where many struggle to survive. However, connection with students was also on Michael's list as a current challenge. Veterans often do struggle with connection, as their life experiences are unique, and simply harder for others to relate to. On top of this, he is the textbook definition of a non-traditional student; older than most, with a military background, taking on a Degree in the arts. Michael described that somewhat awkward distance well, "They matured differently than I did."[caption id="attachment_4955" align="aligncenter" width="791"]

Michael Petersheim

Source: Michael Petersheim[/caption]In school, Michael's main focus is on Photography and Graphic Design. These skills help diversify his portfolio, challenge him as an artist, and are in high demand in the workforce. But when asked about what inspires him as an artist in his personal work, Michael drew back to his first loves; the Marines, and the pencil.

"Any work that I've ever done for myself is always Military oriented... It gives me a sense of purpose. Even if the drawing is just for me and I'm never going to sell it... I love taking work from my own photographs and I love duplicating it and making it into an illustration."

It is these threads of identity, woven together, that keep him centered and grounded, with a deep sense of purpose and identity to guide him into the future. Artists are normally challenged and encouraged to "express themselves." Michael touched on this topic for me, matter-of-factly and directly, but with a weight that could not be ignored.

"That was a big part of my life that kinda defined me for a lot of years. So when people ask me to express myself and I'm drawing pictures of these military guys... guys on patrol... or a portrait of a Marine... Well, this is me. This does define me, this is who I am. The Marine Corps and I... we're one and the same."[caption id="attachment_4952" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Michael Petersheim
Source: Michael Petersheim[/caption]

Read more about Michael here.

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