Notable Man: Michael Dorman

Five-year life plans aren’t for everyone.

At age 19, Michael Dorman decided one Wednesday afternoon he wanted to join the service. On Monday, he was a Coast Guardsman. He thought he’d do four years and move on to something else.

Twenty years later, he retired. He dabbled in retail for a few years, but longed for something greater. Reflecting on his time in the Coast Guard, he felt driven to give back to other service members. He decided to start an organization that would offer support to both current military members and veterans.

“On a Wednesday I said, ‘God’s calling me to do this, and on Friday, there won’t be a paycheck,’” he recalled. With that, Fuquay-Varina-based Military Missions in Action was born in 2008.

“If you would have told me that at year four and a half we would have provided over $1.5 million in aid, I’d have told you that you were crazy,” Dorman said. But today, MMIA serves veterans and active duty personnel in all 100 N.C. counties.

MMIA consists of several programs that help different subsets of veterans. Two of the most utilized services are home wheelchair ramp additions through the Ramps and Rails program and bathroom modifications to help aging or wounded veterans via Operation Building Hope. Many of those who receive MMIA services are veterans from decades past.

“For World War II vets, age was becoming a disability,” Dorman said. “Most are still living in the house they bought when they returned from the war. If those people who served their country want to live out their life and die in their own home, they should be able to do that.” But many wouldn’t be able to without home modification help from MMIA.

The Fill the Footlocker program, which sends comfort items to deployed service members, was founded based on Dorman’s recollections from his own tours of duty. “I drank Cheerwine sodas. I ate Nabs. RC Colas and MoonPies were regular staples — until I went to Guam,” he said. Overseas, something as basic as a pair of socks can make a world of difference.

With advances in body armor and skilled medics, survival rates are up from previous conflicts, Dorman says. “Where we’re falling short is when we send them home.” Here, the facts are a bit grim. Domestic violence has risen. More than a dozen service members commit suicide each day.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries lead many veterans to return home and find themselves unable to complete basic tasks, despite having no physical disability. “In their mind they can still do something, but they can’t make their hands do it,” Dorman said. The stress and frustration they feel often makes them pull away from their families and friends.

“It’s those injuries you can’t see that probably need your help the most,” Dorman believes. Enter the Homes for Healing program, which provides assistance with household upkeep and similar tasks, allowing veterans to focus on their own healing processes.

One young veteran lost his life to PTSD, and Dorman wanted to help his wife and young child return to their home. “The house needed $14,000 in repairs, but we only had $2,000 in the bank,” he said. Not letting that dissuade him, he set out to work on the home, with faith that the money would come. It did. “When we left we’d done $14,000 of work and still had $2,000 in the bank.”

He credits MMIA’s many volunteers — more than 2,000 in 2011 — with being able to do so much with seemingly so little. “The only thing we can do for a volunteer is feed ’em and tell ’em thank you,” Dorman said. But nobody seems to mind. “Most of the volunteers are getting more out of this than the people we’re helping.”

Dorman regularly puts in 60 to 75 hours per week, but he makes sure to take off one weekend per month to spend time with his wife, Tina. “We lived a few houses away for five years and I never knew she existed,” he said. Dorman says Tina was teased for not regularly going out, because, “God’s not going to drop someone on your doorstep.”

However, one day in 2004 she and her mother held a yard sale. He didn’t land on the doorstep, but he did come walking up her driveway. They were married in 2005. “She’s a strong supporter of what I do,” he said.

For information on MMIA, visit

1 Comment

  • Colleen E Bouchard says:

    Arrangements have been finalized. We would love for all those who love Mike to join us in remembering and honoring this great Man.

    Saturday Jan 8th 3pm First United Methodist Church 402 n main st Fuquay-Varina
    Funeral and Military service(mask required)

    Sunday Jan 9th 12 to 4pm American Legion post 116 6400 Johnston Pond rd. Fuquay-Varina
    Celebration of Life Drop in / Lunch and Love provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *