Michelle Estes is a class of 2024 Master of International Affairs candidate with a concentration in National Security & Diplomacy in the European theater. She is also a a former veteran who served 24 years in the Air Force before deciding to come to the Bush School.
My name is Michelle Estes and I am a first-year student at the Bush School studying International Affairs with a concentration in National Security & Diplomacy in the European theater.
Why did you decide to come to the Bush School?
The reason why I decided to come to the Bush School is because I wasn’t done serving my country, and after 24 years with the Air Force, I knew I wanted to continue that service in another capacity. I loved College Station and I’ve always had the desire to attend Texas A&M. I actually went to the military admissions office and spoke to a counselor there, and they recommended me for the Bush School. I love everything that the school stands for – all of its values. I love that President Bush said that ‘public service is a noble calling.’
When I was younger, I spent time in Berlin when the wall was up, so that connected with me, the social issues that were going on in Germany when they were divided, and then later on when they were reunified. So the horses that we have out in front of the Bush School galloping over the Berlin Wall – that touches me. I knew this was the right place for me. It connects with my values, it’s everything that I stand for. So I hope to continue serving in this honorable school.
What does Veteran’s Day mean to you?
It means paying gratitude to people that were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Luckily, we were in a position where we didn’t. However, we were willing to. That’s the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Memorial Day is when we recognize the fallen from the armed services, whereas Veteran’s Day is all-encompassing of those veterans that are still living with us today. And it’s nice to stand shoulder to shoulder with people that dealt with the same issues as you and were involved in some of the same endeavors as you. As a military person, it’s not easy.
It’s a complete honor. It’s an important day for us, and it makes us feel good. There are many days out there and so, I feel honored that the government has chosen a day to recognize when somebody’s willing to say “pick me, here I am, send me!” That takes a lot. It’s not easy to do, we leave our families at times, and a lot of times the unspoken heroes are our spouses and our families. We didn’t get here by ourselves. We don’t stand here by ourselves, and when we retire, hopefully, you still have those people that held you up and cheered for you the loudest. So I’m completely honored to be in the position that I am to have served, but I didn’t get here by myself, and I had a lot of people behind me.
Why did you decide to join the military?
I’ve always been, since living in Berlin as a young child, I have been globally minded. I will never forget the day that my dad came home and talked about a Polish man who stole a plane to get out of Poland because he was after freedom. He wanted to escape the communist country that he was in, and my dad came home and said, “You’ll never believe what happened to me today. We had a guy come in unannounced in a plane and he wanted freedom.” And as a young 12-year-old at the time, I was full of questions. I wanted to know all about that – “Why did he do that?” “What do you mean ‘communism’?” Even though I lived in West Berlin and we had East Berlin right there, I don’t think it fully connected with me what that meant, and I did not fully understand the lesson of freedom until I watched it being denied to others. And that’s where that was, the pivot in my life that changed me and my trajectory.
My decision to join the military was very easy. I was third generation Air Force. I grew up around my family, listening to them talk about the part that they played. I always tell people this, but everyone has a part to play. It doesn’t matter if you are joining the military or doing some other profession. You have a part to play, and it’s for you to figure out what that is for yourself. For me it was easy. I was going to follow in the footsteps of my dad and my grandfather. I am third-generation Air Force and extremely proud to have served my country honorably for 24 years and to be involved in some of the great feats that we’ve been involved in, and some of efforts not only in the United States, but across the world. It’s been an amazing, amazing ride.
I also joined because there’s got to be something inside of you that wants to serve. You want to give a little bit more of yourself, and you want to stand by people that want to have that same commitment to do that alongside you. And I have been honored to be part of some great associations, not only with Americans but also with our international partners. Serving with them has been an honor also. When you’re talking about public service and why you do something, joining a bigger cause than yourself is really what it’s about.
How does the Bush School align with military values?
The Bush School is all about that public service, it’s about building character. I think there’s a reason why the Bush School is at Texas A&M. If you look at Texas A&M and its values, it’s aligned perfectly. So I couldn’t think of a better place to have the Bush School at Texas A&M. It creates leaders and I want to be that, I want to be that public servant and get out there and make a change in the world. I want to have an impact, whether it be small or large, that’s to be seen, but I do want to make an effort. I just want to be a good citizen of, not only the US but of the world. I’m just proud to be here. I’m just getting started.