Mike Zacchea was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1990. Trained as an artillery officer, he served at Camp Lejeune as a forward observer and platoon commander, deploying to Somalia for OPERATION RESTORE HOPE and to Haiti for OPERATION SUPPORT DEMOCRACY. He served as operations officer and executive officer of a Marine recruiting station. He was selected for advanced artillery school, and went on to command two artillery batteries and serve as a battalion assistant operations officer. He served another tour on recruiting duty in the northeastern US. In March 2004, as a major, he deployed to Iraq for OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM II. His team’s mission was to build, train, and lead in combat the first Iraqi army battalion trained by the US military. After an initial 4-month training period, his adviser team led the Iraqi battalion in combat operations for 7 months. During this time, the battalion participated in OPERATION PHANTOM FURY, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. The battalion spent 6 weeks in urban combat, the longest of any deployed Iraqi unit, and accomplished a number of historical firsts for the Iraqi army. During the battle, Mike was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade, but declined to be medically evacuated.
Mike’s military awards include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor (with gold star in lieu of 2nd award), a Purple Heart Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and numerous unit and campaign awards. Mike was also the first and at the time only American recognized by the Iraqi government by the Order of the Lion of Babylon. As a result of his wounds, Mike has been medically retired.
Mike’s education includes a BA from the University of Notre Dame, an MA from Hawaii Pacific University, Advanced Artillery School, Amphibious Warfare School, and the course in the Law of Land Warfare. He earned an MBA from the School of Business at the University of Connecticut, and is the founder and Director of the University’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities.
Mike helped form a non-profit organization of military advisers in 2006 to help Iraqi interpreters immigrate to the United States, which eventually became known nationally as Netroots: the List Project. In 2009, he founded a non-profit organization called the UConn Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, through which he has helped veterans start more than 50 businesses. He served on a multi-agency cross-disciplinary working group chaired by the CT Dept of Veterans Affairs focusing on veteran reintegration, education, training, and workforce re-entry issues. Mike founded the CT Veterans Chamber of Commerce 501(c)6 organization in 2013, the only veterans organization registered to lobby in the CT General Assembly. He has been recognized as the 2011 Veterans Business Champion by the Small Business Administration. Mike is a member of the Executive Board of the CT Veterans Parade, the largest veterans’ parade in New England. Mike serves on several veterans advisory boards for elected officials.
Mike is a frequent guest speaker in the media, and has been featured in several books and documentaries addressing the Iraq War, veterans issues, and Iraqi refugee issues. Mike presented “Managing Trauma in the War Theater” to the International Congress of Stress and Trauma Management in 2013. Mike is the author of “Veteran’s Advocacy: the Fight for Social Justice and Healing Through Activism” in Healing War Trauma: A Handbook of Creative Approaches (Routledge: 2012) and of “Social Entrepreneurship Solution for Veterans’ Reintegration through Entrepreneur Training for Disabled Veterans” in Social Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for Social Change (Infoage: 2013).
Mike is married and has a young son. He lives in northwest rural CT.