Many bodybuilding fans may know or remember that the Arnold Classic used to be held at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial building in Columbus, OH. Many of the sport’s biggest moments took place in that building, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s historic upset of then reigning Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva at the 1970 Mr. World competition. That show served as the catalyst for Schwarzenegger’s rise to immortality in the sport.
That building no longer stands in that space. It was taken down in the last decade, but an even more impressive building was erected in its place. The National Veterans Memorial & Museum (NVMM) honors all branches of the United States Armed Forces by taking visitors on a narrative journey telling individual stories and shared experiences of Veterans throughout history. They recognize and pay tribute to the sacrifices and commitments made by America’s heroes and their families.
Lieutenant General Michael Ferriter (Ret.) is one of those heroes, and he’s the President and CEO of the NVMM. Ferriter has led brave men and women throughout the world during his active military career, and he’s proud of being in a position to help tell this important story in such a unique way.
“It’s the only NVMM in the country,” said Ferriter. “It tells the story from 1775 to today.”
Ferriter’s role today is a far different one than that he previously held. The military was a big part of his family. His father served in the Army and retired as a Colonel. Young Michael Ferriter spent part of his childhood in Germany, where he was playing various sports, which served as his initial connection to fitness. After moving back to the United States and going through high school, he had intended on going to West Point, and he even earned a scholarship. But his father had connections to the Citadel and persuaded him to go to school there for a year first.
“After the first day, it was Dad one, Mike zero.” he said with a laugh. His 35-year journey serving his country began when he graduated from the Citadel in 1979. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry, and his career only went up from there. He had aspired to be a leader, and his commitment to being his best self in that role never wavered.
“I wanted people to see that you can be a leader and be really fit.”
There aren’t many people that can say they have led at the magnitude that Ferriter had. He had been involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Restore Hope. By 2011, he served as assistant chief of staff for installation management and was the commanding general for the United States Army Installation Management Command.
“They put me in command of over 75 cities in 17 time zones with 123,000 employees.”
By his retirement in 2014, Ferriter had earned numerous accolades and awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star
Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), and the Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Ferriter still holds himself to a high standard of fitness today, and he helps others do the same thanks to Jiu-Jitsu. As an Army Ranger, he took the creed of being the best with a weapon and his hands to heart. Ferriter worked with Matt Larson and MMA legend Royce Gracie to create a combat program. As a man that was known to lead by example, he got on the mats as well.
“A lot of leaders were cowardly because of the risk of getting choked out by a private or something. They had to learn not to be cowardly. Be a leader.”
As a result, Larson became known as the Father of Modern Army Combatives, and Ferriter is known as the Godfather of Modern Army Combatives. He’s been a believer in martial arts ever since, and he even had mats put in at over 400 fitness facilities he was in command of.
“I’m now a three-stripe black belt.”
Michael Ferriter also has an academy in the northwest that he reports to be doing well. When he was considering taking on his current job with the NVMM, he found over 4,000 square feet of unused space in the NVMM when he took on his current role, and he converted that into a Jiu-Jitsu academy where he could share his passion with students.
He said proudly, “It’s now the best Jiu-Jitsu academy in Ohio. We train eight times a week. We know for a fact that we have saved at least four people from suicide. We know that.”
Between Ferriter’s work in preserving the history of the military and teaching students how to protect themselves, he’s clearly concerned and invested in serving multiple generations of Americans. Fitness and service are clearly foundational pillars of his life. He hopes that his example will help others strive to be the same.
“It’s the connection and comraderie that I love. Also, I want to be known as a man of character and integrity that wins. I remain pretty fit today at age 67. I think staying active, staying fit, and staying hard, and pushing yourself to the next goal is what thriving in life is.”
For more information on the NVMM, Click Here.