07 May 2007 by Published in: General News 25 comments

In the early 1990’s, I met and became friends with Mike Phipps. At that time, Mike was trying to make a living as a licensed battlefield guide in Gettysburg. He’d done a hitch as an officer in the Regular Army, having gone through Ranger training and then service with the Old Guard. Mike left the Army to pursue a career in law enforcement, and then decided try guiding. Mike’s done a lot of research and writing on John Buford, and has written an excellent account of the fight on East Cavalry Field.

Several years ago, Mike decided to go back into the Army. He joined the National Guard and later enlisted in the Regular Army. This time, he went in as a sergeant and not as a captain, which is the rank he held during his first stint of duty. Mike did one tour in Iraq and then had some health problems, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to go back on active duty. Fortunately, he recovered and re-deployed to Iraq last month.

I got the following e-mail from Wayne Motts by way of my friend Greg Biggs today:

My Friend SSGT Michael Phipps
By Wayne E. Motts
06 May 2007
Twenty-one years ago as a nineteen year-old licensed battlefield guide candidate, I had the pleasure to meet Mike Phipps an officer in the United States Army and like me a student of the Battle of Gettysburg. Mike and I took the guide test together and as classmates have guided on the Gettysburg Battlefield for two decades. After leaving the military for a career in law enforcement, Mike re-entered the Pennsylvania National Guard and as a soldier in the 109th Infantry Regiment spent three months in Iraq last year. After being relived of active duty, he decided at age forty-nine to enter the regular army again. Earlier this year, he reported to Fort Hood, Texas and was assigned to the First Cavalry Division.

On 5 April 2007, Mike arrived in Iraq for his second combat tour. Two days after he reported to a base between Bagdad and Anbar Province his convoy passed over two one hundred and thirty pound mortars buried under the ground. Luckily these IEDs (improvised explosive device) failed to detonate. They were later safely detonated by coalition forces. From the time of his arrival in country until today, Mike spent most of his time on combat patrols as a member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 5th United States Cavalry Regiment. He constantly reminds me that as a “Black Knight Trooper,” he shares a common history with Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The old 2nd United States Cavalry Regiment, later designated the 5th United States Cavalry in August 1861, was commanded by Lee from 16 March 1861 to 25 April 1861. This was Lee’s last command in the old army.

At 2:00 PM EST, 6 May 2006, Mike called me from a hospital bed in Iraq. He was wounded in action while on a combat patrol at 10:00 AM Bagdad time this morning. As one of a five -man team, he had just exited a house when insurgents showered his group with automatic weapons fire. Mike was struck in the side of the left shoulder blade with the round passing out of his body. His fellow patrol members took him to safety. Fortunately there were no other casualties among his comrades. When he spoke to me he was lucid and in good spirits. He will remain in the hospital at Bagdad for sometime and then be transported to Landstuhl Air Force Base. The prognosis is not known at this time. I will get his address when he lands somewhere more permanent.

In times like this, it is well to remember the daily challenges, concerns, and worries of our lives, while annoying, mean little. I know all of you will join me in keeping Mike in your thoughts and prayers. He passes on his good wishes

So, not only is Mike a student of Civil War cavalry operations, he is on active duty as a cavalryman in the modern Army, serving in a great regiment with a storied history. Mike is also the first Iraq casualty whom I know personally, and that puts a completely different face on things. Hopefully, he will recover quickly and will bear no permanent effects of this combat wound.

Please join me in sending good wishes for the speedy recovery of a fellow cav guy. Get well soon, Mike, and come home safely.

Scridb filter


  1. Mike Nugent
    Tue 08th May 2007 at 1:02 am

    Indeed, best wishes to Mike for a speedy and complete recovery. As a retired old cav guy myself, I still hear that bugle calling but my hat really goes off to the guys who put the rest of their lives on hold and march to the sound of the guns.

    A friend of mine joined the Marines after high school and got out after a couple of tours. He went back in the week after 9-11 and has since done 2 tours in Iraq.

    These guys don’t just talk the talk. Regardless of your stance on the war, they’re real heroes.

    Get well soon Mike!

  2. Tue 08th May 2007 at 7:46 am

    Thank you for sharing that.

    What I like about these forums is that you get eveyone involved, not just guys who have been in the military. Everyone has something to offer when it comes to research and history, and regardless of who teaches, it is important.

    The First Cavalry Division’s 5th Regiment does indeed have a great history, and I would be willing to bet at this point the most decorated in the Regular Army.

    I too was in Cavalry before I joined the Marine Corps, and both institutions have many similarities. Esprit de Corps is exceptional in both.

    I consider the historians of this culture to be part of the brotherhood as well.


  3. Paul T
    Tue 08th May 2007 at 7:56 am

    I am the godson of the late Elizabeth Boyd Balthaser. I live in Reading, Pa and I have several Possessions of her Grandfather, Col William Henry Boyd, who was also involved in the “Boyds Directory”. I wish to discuss further with you some items of interest. I stumbled on this website by doing my first search on Google for a picture of William H Boyd. Please E-Mail me at palltee@verizon.net. Hope to hear from you.

    Paul Thompson

  4. Brian S.
    Tue 08th May 2007 at 10:14 am


    I’ve gone on a few Gettysburg Anniversary Battle Walks with Mike. He did an awsome tour on the 5th Corps Regulars and he’s got a booming voice too. After his tours he used to get into a beat up blue pickup and seemed to be leading a pretty good life. He seems like a good guy and I hope he gets well. Brian

  5. Don
    Tue 08th May 2007 at 11:41 am

    Best wishes to Mike for a complete and rapid recovery.

  6. Brooks Simpson
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 11:50 am

    I met Mike in Gettysburg whan he and I were both working on short studies for Farnsworth Military Impressions. My best wishes go out to him.

  7. kcrx330
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. Having been married to Michael the entire time of what you referred to as “his first stint of duty” I can assure everyone that he is living his dream. This article, email and comments will make our son very proud. Thanks again.

    To Ann: If you get the pleasure of reading this, Stay strong!


  8. Sharon
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Michael is my nephew. As family we’ve known this bright and wonderful man all of his 50 years. We pray that he is returned to us safely and that we will all be able to enjoy many more years of his “stories”

  9. Ian Duncanson
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Damn, what an American! God speed Michael.

  10. Taylor
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks for the post. I remember when Mike got fired up about Gettysburg by playing the Avalon Hill game at his house. He was recruited by several major colleges for basketball and quit after his junior year so he could focus on ROTC. Other guys were going home for Christmas break. He was headed to Airborne School.

    At 50, most of us are thinking about early retirement. He’s still doing what fires him up the most.

    Please keep us up to date with his progress.

  11. Kathy Galbreath
    Thu 10th May 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I am Michael’s cousin, whom I have not seen for a very long time. I am so sorry to hear that he has been wounded, but overjoyed that his injury does not seem to be life threatening. Michael is “one of the timeless soldiers who serve, generation after generation, setting aside the opportunities of American life in order to preserve that same opportunity for others. The faces, uniforms, and equipment change, but the same bright stare looks back beneath the faded fabric of that generation’s helmet with determination and resolve. Two simple words hang silently before tight lips, “I will.”

    These soldiers serve something larger than themselves, their families, and their Nation. They serve humanity in its best and truest form. They serve the indisputable truth that there is good and evil in the world, and that one individual can, and will, make a difference. No parade, promotion, medal, nor plaque upon the wall can outshine the internal peace that comes from serving this cause.” These are not my words, but the words of Col Gus Stafford , USMA, Class of 81 written today in a eulogy for Col James Harrison, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on May 6th. To me his eloqent words sum up and are extremely appropriate given each and every soldier’s, to include Michael’s, dedication to his country.

    Michael, as a mother of two son currently attending West Point and all too soon following in your footsteps, please accept my gratitude for your service and sacrifice. To Michael, Ann, Kelly and Patrick: my thoughts and prayers are with you all. May time heal all wounds.


  12. Wed 16th May 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I had a one-on-one tour of East Cavarly Field with Mike back in December 1997, which was absolutely amazing. I wish him a speedy recovery and a quick return stateside to family and friends.

    — Jim

  13. Tony
    Sat 19th May 2007 at 10:58 am

    I am a motorcoach driver for Indian Trails out of Michigan. This one particular school that I have driven for several past years ALWAYS request Mike for their Battlefield Guide. MIKE IS HANDS DOWN THE BEST GUIDE THERE IS!! (Which is an extremely high compliment considering ALL the other GREAT guides which there are many). I was googling Mike’s name because I will be in Gettysburg later this week for the only trip I will do this year to hopefully find out that Mike was back and stumbled upon this post. I am truly sorry to hear about the injury and pray that he heals up quickly.

  14. Mike Peters
    Sun 20th May 2007 at 4:23 pm

    I went through Ft. Benning in 1979 with Mike, through the IOBC. I though I knew my history until I met Mike . I pray for a speedy recovery and hope to see him the next time I visit Gettysburg from Texas.

  15. Frank Spadaro
    Wed 23rd May 2007 at 10:43 am

    I used to work with Mike when he was a Police Officer in Maryland, a great guy and true patriot.I went on a field trip to Gettysburg with my sons class on 05/17/07 hoping to hook up with an old friend and do a little catching up when I heard the bad news. Mike, if you see this you and the rest of the men and women are in our thoughts and prayers.. wishing all of you a safe journey home.

  16. Ron
    Wed 23rd May 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I have had many tours of the Gettysburg field. Quite a few of those tours were with Mike. He is a great guide! More importantly he has been a great friend to have a beer with whenever I go to Gettysburg. Always smiling, always positive, always interesting, and always educating! I look forward to seeing him once again when he returns and hear not just his stories of the Civil War but of the Hajis as well!

    God Bless you Mike!

    Ron from CT.

  17. Rhonda Travis-Kuebler
    Fri 10th Aug 2007 at 9:09 am

    I knew Michael a long time ago and have not seen him for many years, but he’s always been in my thoughts and prayers. As a former Marine, I say OOH RAH to Michael and his mates. My husband, kids and I will keep his family in our prayers as well.

  18. Sharon
    Wed 17th Jun 2009 at 8:33 am

    Just an update on my nephew Michael….He is now on his third tour of duty in Iraq. Keep him in your prayers please.

  19. heather philbin
    Mon 27th Jul 2009 at 7:45 pm


  20. Mon 27th Jul 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I believe so.


  21. Ann Branaugh- Phipps
    Thu 10th Dec 2009 at 2:17 am

    My deepest appreciation to Kelly and Kathy for thinking of me when it appears that even Michael has overlooked me.

  22. Michael Bridges (Disabled Vet) 2-5 Cav
    Thu 25th Jul 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I realize this thread is quite old just wanted to add my 2 cents about Mike. It has been quite a while since I served with SSG Phipps I was there with him in Iraq and heard within minutes of his injury. I was concerned about him he was a great friend to me and I needed to know he was ok. The way I remember my time with him was he is a man of great knowledge, courage, care, and honor. I say these things because there were not many people without some sort of agenda, although Mike never seemed to have one. Through all the being sent to the hospital and finally making it back to Ft. Hood he never forgot me and for that I am grateful. I received a letter from him making sure I was ok and he was the one that was injured. I hope to see him again one day. He is a good man and I wish him all the best.

  23. SGT James
    Tue 07th Jan 2014 at 5:04 pm

    If this is the same Mike Phipps, he was my platoon leader in the 504th PIR (82nd Airborne Division) back in the early ’80s. We met again in the mid 80’s when we both served in the 3rd Brigade of the newly formed 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Ord, Ca. A good soldier, leader, mentor, and communicator. Truly, a great American he is. I would be remiss if I did not say that he was a talented basketball player as well. I remember the picture behind his desk of Mike Phipps battling Mike Gminski of Duke. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

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