Baltimore County Department of Corrections, Towson, Md.
Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, Local 4883
Some men measure their success by how much money or power they have. Michael Morris measures success by one kind act—one good deed, one act of courage, one life saved—at a time.
"The first time I ever saved a life, I knew I was going to be in public service," says Morris. That fateful day was when Morris was 16 years old. A house across the street from his was on fire. He followed his uncle, a fire captain, into the burning house, and following his uncle's lead, Morris helped everyone out of the home to safety.
For Morris, public service is not just a career. It is a way of life. His job: correctional officer at the Baltimore County (Md.) Detention Center. His duty: sergeant in the Maryland National Guard. His passion: volunteer firefighter and medic.
Morris has saved two more lives since the house fire. Most recently, in December, he derailed an inmate's suicide attempt by hanging, which earned him a director's commendation. And during his last tour in Iraq, he saved the life of a fellow soldier after their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. "If it wasn't for my medical training, he probably wouldn't be alive."
Morris' life's work is a tapestry of selflessness, strength and leadership.
On a typical day, Morris spends the morning volunteering at a firehouse. Then he's off to work for the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at the detention center.
Since joining the National Guard in 2004, he's had four tours of duty—two on the front lines in Iraq, one noncombat tour at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and one stateside in New Orleans to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
At the detention center, "I always try to put myself in their shoes," he says, and when it comes to dealing with inmates, "sometimes just asking how they are makes the biggest difference in the world. Everybody is innocent until proven guilty."
On the battlefield, Morris says, "I put my soldiers first, and I put me last."
Morris is driven by an innate desire to make a difference in society. "I gotta feel like I'm doing something," he says, noting that his philosophy is that "if you can make one positive change in someone's life or have one positive influence, you've done your job."
At 29, Morris has success.