By Erika Craven, KFYR
Michelle Mulberry’s brigadier general promotion is more than a one-star ceremony, it’s the culmination of many years of military service. The story begins with patriarch Richard Balliet’s time in Vietnam.
“When I first got there, I figured I had so long to serve that I didn’t think I would get out of there anyway. But as the time went on and things got better the closer that I got to the end of my tour, the end of that year, I started to slow down a bit, get a little bit worried, that I might make it out of there anyway,” said Full Col. Richard Balliet, North Dakota Army National Guard.
Balliet also served with Co A, 101st Aviation Battalion as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and served over 36 years. He wrote a book about his experiences.
Balliet’s daughters learned more about their father’s story as they forged their own paths in the military.
“That’s where my dad was, and he worked full time, and both sisters had gone that route. And, I kind of figured if I didn’t like it, I only had to do it one weekend a month and two weeks a year. And, I wasn’t stuck on active duty for four years,” said Sgt. First Class Laura Balliet with the North Dakota Army National Guard and assistant attorney general.
Now, the Balliet family celebrates middle daughter Michelle’s promotion to brigadier general for the Wyoming Air National Guard. She’s the second in her family to achieve the one-star honor after Nicole, who received the title in the Army National Guard while in California.
“[At the promotion ceremony] we usually have at least those four positions, and we made it happen with just our family which is really unusual,” said Brig. Gen. Michelle Mulberry for the Wyoming Air National Guard.
These military women not only achieved high honors but also keep a strong sense of humor.
“You know, we always give our dad a lot of crap, because now he has two daughters that outrank him, so we celebrate that and high-five when he tries to tell us something,” added BG Mulberry.
Youngest daughter Laura isn’t left out of the joke.
“For 11 years, I have been assistant attorney general for the State of North Dakota, so I had the title general first,” added SFC Laura Balliet.
The family has been around the world and back with nine deployments between father and daughters. And while they’re scattered across the country now, the military’s brought them together again and again.
“I was in Iraq when my sister was deployed to Qatar, and I got to see her on the ramp of a C-130 aircraft. She flew into Iraq to pick up the wounded I got to see her for about 20 minutes,” said Brig. Gen. Nicole Balliet, National Guard Bureau.
BG Mulberry added that the meet-up was a surprise.
The family has served the United States in many capacities from flying helicopters in Vietnam, to working earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, to extensive work in the Middle East.
“Now the girls, they all did this on their own. I didn’t encourage them to join, that was all their own decisions. We actually never really talked about it much until they came to me and said this is what they want to do. I am very proud of them for that,” added Col. Richard Balliet.
They say the military has brought the family together.
“I think being in the military and getting older, of course, has brought us closer as sisters. It’s nice to have shared experiences. We all know what it’s like to deploy. We know what it’s like to miss family,” added BC Nicole Balliet.
The Balliets say they’ve been lucky to have support from friends and family, including the girls’ mother Betty Jo, throughout their military careers.
Including Michelle Mulberry and Nicole Balliet, there are five female general officers who hail from North Dakota. The others from North Dakota include Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber with the North Dakota Army National Guard, Brig. Gen. Stefanie Horvath with the Minnesota Army National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Giselle Wilz with the National Guard Bureau in Washington DC.
Reprinted with permission from KFYR TV