An Angel Amongst Us

Corporal Michael Howard

MichaelHoward0724 1

July 2024 Issue
Story and Photography by Elizabeth Skenes Millen

MichaelHoward0724When Corporal Michael Howard and I parted ways after meeting at the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners office for this story, he said, “I hope you have a blessed day.” I responded, “I already have because of you.”

Michael is a security officer at Hilton Head Plantation (HHP). He has worked there for just over four years, and the residents who get to know him, love him. As a resident myself, I had never really interacted with Michael except for waving and smiling when he waves me through the gate, therefore I had no idea my neighborhood had an angel at the front entrance.

I’m not sure everyone thinks he’s an angel, since he has to do his job when things go awry. After all, he is bound by duty to ensure everyone is following the law and behaving properly. But there is one man who will argue you down if you say Michael’s not an angel. This is the man who Michael saved from choking to death one day right at the main gate.

“A van was leaving the neighborhood and pulled over. The driver got out, came up to me, and motioned he was choking,” Michael explained. “I did the Heimlich maneuver on him—once, twice, on the third try the blockage cleared.” As it turned out, the man had forgotten to take his medicine that morning, so when he remembered, he took it while driving down the road, thinking nothing of it (even though he had nothing to drink in the van). “It was a big pill!” Michael exclaimed. The pill lodged itself in the contractor’s airway, and if he wouldn’t have been near the security gate, he probably would have died.

All security officers at Hilton Head Plantation have to go through rigorous training, which includes CPR, AED, Heimlich maneuver, first aid, and other life-saving skills. In addition, they have to keep their certifications current, which requires continued training and education each year.

“Our officers have the same equipment as paramedics,” said Peter Kristian, General Manager of Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners Association. “In many cases, we can get there before the ambulance and start administering help until they arrive.” It is obvious Peter is proud of Michael, but he pointed out that several HHP officers have been recognized for saving lives. Peter added, “Michael always goes above and beyond the call of duty. He is the type of individual who never hesitates to deliver customer service, and in this case, he saved a life.”

“I enjoy seeing happiness on residents’ faces. I smile at everyone. And some of the kids come through with huge smiles and big waves. It keeps me going, makes my day,” Michael said, smiling. “One day a resident came through, and she had heard I’m a man of faith. She told me her husband was going through a hard time. He needed a lung transplant. She asked me to pray for him. I asked her if we could pray together for him right then, so I did. It was amazing, no one blew their horn or got impatient behind her in line. They didn’t know we were praying.” Just a few weeks later, she ecstatically told him her husband had received a lung and did well through surgery. He’s doing great now. Do you think that lady believes Michael’s an angel?

With that story deep on his heart, Michael confessed he had not always been a man of God. When he met Linda, the girl he wanted to marry, she told him he had to find God or leave her alone. He chose Linda but finding God wasn’t easy or fast. He had seen some bad days and was doing things he shouldn’t be doing. “My dad never got to see me set myself right,” Michael said with great emotion. “I was going through the motions and fooling everyone, but then I had to have an operation on my eye—more doing what I shouldn’t have been. When I came out of surgery, I wasn’t doing good. They said my heart was enlarged, and my chances weren’t good. That’s when I started making deals with God. I said, ‘God, I have lied to you. I have lied over and over. I have not done what I said I would do, but if you let my heart go down, I will serve you for the rest of my life.’ He healed me, and I have never looked back. I serve Him everyday.”

Michael was named 2023 Security Officer of the Year amongst all local gated communities’ officers. He was honored at a banquet held at Wexford Clubhouse and again by the Rotary Club. “I was shocked. I felt unworthy because there are so many good officers. It was phenomenal. I’m grateful for everyone who trained me.”

We sat there quietly pondering the depth of his story, his life, his accomplishments. I broke the silence by asking if he had anything else he wanted to say, and he left me with these powerful words: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. I’m living testimony. It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish it.”


Up Close

• Michael has been married to Linda for 19 years. He has 2 grown children and 6 grandchildren.

• He credits two things to saving his life: Linda and prayer. (He praises his mama for her support, too!)

• Favorite Bible Verse: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” —Matthew 9:37

• He is known by all the residents for giving the Shaka sign with both hands to wave everyone through the gate. Originated in Hawaii, the Shaka sign (pinky and thumb out, other 3 fingers folded) is a friendly gesture which means: thank you; everything’s great; take it easy; and hang loose.

Editor’s Note: I bet you believe he’s an angel now (unfortunately, wings aren’t standard uniform issue)

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.