Michael Joseph Bugaj was born in January 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1972. Bugaj attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. For his first assignment, the Air Force sent him to begin work as a carpenter on McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas. He served during the Cold War.
Following the Cold War, Bugaj temporarily left the Air Force. When Bugaj reenlisted, the Air Force stationed him in Germany, where he promoted to staff sergeant. During his service, Bugaj was assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base and Zweibrücken Air Base, which is now Zweibrücken Airport and Ramstein Air Base. Bugaj served in Germany for six years. The Air Force then stationed Bugaj in California at Beale Air Force Base and Travis Air Force Base.
In California, Bugaj used the skills he developed as a carpenter. When a powerful storm swept through and damaged about 70 homes, Bugaj was in charge of fixing the damage. He went on to serve in the Persian Gulf War and earned the rank of master sergeant during that time. In 1995, Bugaj retired from the military.
He joined the Native American Veterans Association in 2005 and was soon named vice president of the group. Bugaj dedicated his time to help spread awareness about Native American Veterans.
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This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Additional writer: Jewel Luckow
Fact checker: L. Rebeca Ahring