Tampa, Florida, US
Drug Enforcement Administration
Special Agent, DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team (FAST) Alpha
10/26/2009, Badghis Province, Afghanistan
There was a final farewell Thursday for a federal agent from our area killed overseas one week ago. Chad Michael, 30, grew up in central Pennsylvania and went off to join the Drug Enforcement Agency or the DEA. He was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last week, along with two other agents and several service members.
Michael left home to serve his country and his return to central Pennsylvania was a somber one. Outside the Church of the Resurrection near Muncy state troopers stood at attention as the funeral for Special Agent Chad Michael began, not far from where Michael grew up.
Hundreds of federal agents, friends and family were there to remember a man who volunteered for a dangerous mission in Afghanistan. There were so many mourners; a second church was used to handle them.
Michael’s body left the church on its way to his final resting place. Firefighters from Hughesville saluted the man who once served with their volunteer department as a teenager.
“Chad’s always going to be in everybody’s heart in this community that knew him. He was smiling from ear to ear all the time. That’s the kind of guy he was,” said Hughesville Fire Chief Steve Steiger.
The funeral procession stretched for at least a mile out of Muncy and into the Hughesville area. Once at the cemetery, Michael’s flag-draped casket was taken to the grave site.
Those who knew him said the Hughesville native’s goal in life was to be on the front lines to make a difference. Special Agent Michael grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania. He graduated in 2001 from St. Leo University in Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. Special Agent Michael began his law enforcement career as a patrol officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Florida. He joined DEA in 2004 and was assigned to the Miami Field Division, serving for six years in Enforcement Group Six. In September 2009, Special Agent Michael volunteered to serve as a member of DEA’s FAST Team to go to Afghanistan to combat the drug trade there.
“That’s what he wanted to do in life and he pursued it as a career. That’s what he wanted to do, he had his mind set,” Steiger added.
Late last month Michael was one of three DEA agents killed in a helicopter crash in western Afghanistan.
“It’s a tremendous showing. They’re a great group of people. I support them 100 percent. They’re doing for this country what we need,” said Chief Steiger.
Among the hundreds attending the funeral service was U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Special Agent Michael was survived by his fiancé, Paola Berrio; his mother, Debra; his stepfather, Leo Hartz; five brothers, Eric Michael, Russell Hartz, Edward Hartz, Leo Hartz, II, and Justin Hartz; and a sister, Cara Hartz.