Employee Spotlight: Michael Beale, A&P Mechanic
October 06, 2016
Epps Aviation recently caught up with Michael Beale, one of our A&P Mechanics currently working in the Aircraft Records Department. Michael, whose aviation background includes eight years serving as an aircraft mechanic in the Army, has been volunteering with fellow veterans for some time now.
His experience with these vets has been incredibly fulfilling and enlightening, in more ways than one. Read on to learn more about Michael's incredible story!
Epps Aviation: How long have you worked for EA, and has it always been in this same position?
Michael Beale: I've been with Epps Aviation for almost ten years now. I started as a Line Service Supervisor and then worked as an aviation mechanic in the Piston Shop before securing my current position in the Aircraft Records Department. Epps has always presented me with opportunities to challenge myself and grow in the aviation industry, and I love that there's always something new to learn.
EA: Please provide some information on the volunteer work you do with veterans.
MB: The veteran outreach I'm engaged in is simply about using golf as a vehicle to get disabled veterans out of their homes and enrich their lives by helping them adapt and overcome their disability.
It was a truly serendipitous encounter that got me started. Traffic was bad so I could not make it to my golf club, so I stopped at a local club to hit some range balls. While I was practicing, several veterans lined up next to me on the range. Although I was trying to focus on my swing, I could not help but overhear the GSGA (Georgia State Golf Association) Golf Professional giving the vets instruction.
As they began to practice, I noticed two were in wheelchairs, so I asked one of the counselors to tell me what this was all about. As I watched for a minute, I observed that the two counselors weren't actually golfers, which meant the twelve veterans only had the one Golf Pro as a coach. I simply offered to help the veteran next to me, which he gladly accepted. Before long I was helping half of the veterans and exchanging stories about our military service. When the clinic concluded, David Windsor (the Golf Pro with GSGA) asked if I would like to continue volunteering and of course I said yes!
EA: What happened from there?
MB: At that time, the story took an amazing turn. When one of the counselors approached me to say thanks, he noticed the memorial bracelet I was wearing. He read it, and asked me how I knew Staff Sergeant John Beale, so I informed him that John was my brother. The counselor shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said how sorry he was. He then proceeded to explain how he had watched my brother die in Afghanistan back in 2009. I didn't know what to say as he informed me that he was providing sniper over watch and had my brother's convoy in his scope when my brother's Humvee exploded. Well, that evening we had drinks and spent hours talking. It was the first time I'd had a conversation with an eye witness to my brother's death.
Since that day I've been involved in veteran golf clinics and continued to grow as a golfer and a golf coach. I was certified through the GSGA as an Adaptive Golf Coach, and I've since completed TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Level I Golf Instructor Certification and am currently working on Level II. After my first serious encounter with a PTSD veteran, I also completed the International Golf Psychology Association's coaching certification.
EA: Have you always been an avid golfer, or did an admiration for the game develop more recently?
MB: Actually, my first job (at ten years old) was at a golf driving range. I loved the game and watched it on TV with the pro, but because he wouldn't teach me, I really never got very good, nor did I take it very seriously. I always loved watching the Majors, but other than that I was a 'once in a blue moon' golfer. It wasn't until Elaine Epps invited me to participate in the GBAA Annual Golf Scramble that I decided I would finally invest in some lessons and try to check the Scratch Golfer box off my bucket list. My brother's death convinced me that we don't always have tomorrow, so I had better get started.
EA: Can you describe an interaction or experience with the Veterans that particularly stands out?
MB: I'm told my enthusiasm for the game is contagious. The veterans are really enjoying the game, and I love seeing their reactions when they finally hit that perfect drive or make that long birdie putt. It's my intention to continue volunteering with these veterans, using golf as a means to help them find happiness and peace.