Director of Public Safety embraces demanding work

By Hannah Menchel
McLean High School

Michael L. Young, Director of Public Safety at Washington and Lee University for twenty-two years greets me with a big smile and a firm handshake. You might expect someone who has been in law enforcement for forty-seven years to be scary or intimidating, but Young is the exact opposite. With eyes that crinkle at the corners as he smiles, he immediately sets me at ease.

While talking about his life and his long career in law enforcement, it is obvious that Young is passionate about his job and what he does. He retired July 15th but he started out as a military policeman when he was nineteen years old, and says that this job “just seemed to fit me.”

“[When you take care of a problem] it makes you feel good. When [people who have a problem] call me, they need me. It’s nice to be needed,” Young said.

That doesn’t mean it is always easy. His worst day in law enforcement occurred when he was in Vietnam as a military policeman during the Tet Offensive, a military campaign launched by forces of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam against South Vietnam and the United States.

“I was a member of a…military police unit in Saigon, and we were attacked in Saigon on January 31st, 1968. We lost 37 people in my unit in about 30 minutes. It was a bad day. But we held our ground and took care of business, and the bad guys never got us…I’m so proud to be a Vietnam Veteran, and we did right, and it did affect my whole life,” Young said.

Young retired because “need[s] to do something else.” He decided that he wants to play some more golf and plans “not to do much of anything for a little while and figure it out.”
Regardless, it is clear that this is a man who loves what he does.
“You don’t make any money at [the director of public safety job] but it’s right, it’s rewarding in itself. There [has] been a ton of [moments that have made me want to be in law enforcement]. Anytime you help someone you feel that… Even little helps are big…” Young said.

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