WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – He calls himself “Your Friendly Neighborhood Mikey”, he’s one of WTRF’s own and he’s also a veteran.
Mikey Allen has become well known on social media for his upbeat and maybe slightly wacky personality, but before he was live streaming his adventures at some of the Ohio Valley’s favorite spots he was serving with the West Virginia Army National Guard.
If I couldn’t of had a camera in my hand with my rifle, I might not of ever joined.Mikey Allen, Veteran
Allen joined the West Virginia Army National Guard as part of a recruitment sustainment program in 2005 during high school.
His goal was always to be a journalist, just maybe in a uniform instead of behind a desk.
So, after basic training Allen went to broadcast training.
With the Army National Guard ‘you know it’s that one weekend a month, two weeks a year, your specialty training here and there, so it wasn’t really on the forefront of mind that like oh I’m going to deploy’.Mikey Allen, Veteran
But he did, to Afghanistan in 2009.
Right before I was about to deploy they let us know that we were going to attach to Special Forces, so I went from being a broadcast journalist to a what they call a combat cameraman, basically a war documentarian.Mikey Allen, Veteran
Allen said deployment was an adjustment.
I just constantly had my camera up and just doing my best to maintain my sense of self in all of it.Mikey Allen, Veteran
Most of the video was for the National Guard’s internal use, but Allen also captured some of his own personal footage.
Sometimes I would cover key leader engagements where we would be meeting with local Afghan government to better our relations. I would cover combat operations with Special Forces, night operations, and then other times I would be filming memorial ceremonies, which was always tough, but something I took a lot of pride in doing.Mikey Allen, Veteran
He was there with the special forces through the dangerous mortar attacks and remembers the fear following the first one he experienced, but also the kindness of one of the men he was deployed with.
The morning after I was scared and nervous. I couldn’t believe that it had happened already. I was only in country for a couple of weeks and I spent the day in the bunker; eating MREs and drinking water and just staying away from everybody just wondering what I had gotten myself into.
No one really thinks, unless you’re under attack, to go to the bunker. At some point an SF guy with his big beard looking like a Spartan pokes his head in and was like ‘hey may you all right?’. I told him ‘nope, not really’. He got down, crawled into the bunker with me and sat there, talked about his first deployment, his experiences. Someone of that stature being so kind was comforting.Mikey Allen, Veteran
And also fondly remembers some of the lighter moments interacting with the locals.
I was on a run one day and I took my camera everywhere with me and I was along the edge of our base, our compound there, and there was a group of kids just looking into the compound. I approached them and I got one of the young Afghan children to say my name, to say Mike, and that just really I’ll never forget that. That was awesome. That language barrier, we don’t’ speak the same language and I must look like some scary monster to them, but they were accepting and just reaching through the fence and shaking their hands and I repeated my name and they repeated theirs back to me. It was a beautiful moment.Mikey Allen, Veteran
After returning from Afghanistan Allen said he felt his time in the service had run its course.
Deployment was the best worst, worst best time in my life. I had done it. I knew that I never wanted to do it again and I had other dreams, I had other goals that didn’t really align with the military lifestyle.Mikey Allen, Veteran
He calls that time after deployment a ‘whirlwind’ trying to catch up on everything he missed the year he was gone.
While Allen is no longer enlisted, he still sees how it shaped his life.
I did my time and it came to define a big part of my personality. I’m thankful for it and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else unless they really wanted it for the right reasons.Mikey Allen, Veteran
Of course, eventually that broadcast journalism experience brought Mikey here to 7News.
You can find him on Facebook on Loveov and follow along as he checks out some of the Ohio Valley’s favorite spots.