|Murdock in the exotic destination of Kuala Lumpur.
Christian W. Murdock is an urban planner for the Community Development Department City of Mission Viejo where he balances answering phone calls, responding to e-mails, assisting customers at the counter, and researching and writing reports.
“Mission Viejo maintains a small planning staff, so I get to play a part in nearly everything planning-related that the City undertakes,” says Murdock who is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning, with a Specialization in Spatial Information Processing, 2006. “There is rarely a dull day.”
In addition, Murdock, 27, has served in Iraq not once, but twice – in 2004 and 2008. Growing up as a kid, he says he wanted to become a Navy fighter pilot so he could see the world, sail the oceans, and fly jets, all of which sounded irresistible.
“However, after I discovered that perfect vision was a must, I abandoned that hope,” he says.
His interest in the military began as far back as he can recall, and nearly every male in his family has served in the military since World War II.
“Most influential was my grandfather, who was a Marine and participated in the invasion of Guadalcanal in 1942. He was a member of the 1st Marine Division, and I could see the pride of being a Marine brimming from him until the day he died. I never planned on being a Marine, however – I thought it would be too hard,” he says.
In terms of his two tours in Iraq he says the first was for six months.
“It was during a more active and dangerous period in Iraq, but I was confined to a base providing communications support at an airfield,” he shares. “My second tour was much busier but relatively more safe. I performed civil affairs duties for 10 months, mostly planning economic development strategies and programs to aid in the reconstruction of Al Anbar Province, but also interacting in Ramadi and elsewhere with local and provincial leaders. I had a chance to see a few different areas of the country, urban and rural. The destruction from and disinvestment during 5 years of war was shocking.”
Of course, he missed quite a bit about his homeland while in Iraq including friends and family, but there was something else.
“I perhaps most missed ‘mobility,’” he explains. “What I mean by that is the ability to get up and go somewhere. Every movement in Iraq had to be carefully planned and staged, and there was always the constant threat of attack. Plus, it was rare to drive above 30-40 miles per hour, which feels like a snail’s pace compared to cruising down the I-5 Freeway! It’s liberating to jump in your car, turn the ignition key, and head wherever you want, on a whim.”
With the two tours behind him, Murdock isn’t scheduled to deploy again, so far as he knows.
“With President Obama’s decision on troop levels in Afghanistan still uncertain, anything can happen, and I try to remain prepared for that.
He has enjoyed being what he refers to as a “citizen-soldier” and reports that it has benefitted him in a number of ways.
“Having made the sacrifices of uniformed service has made me much more grateful for my freedom and the quality of life that we enjoy in the United States. Many people seem disconnected from the fact that not everywhere in the world is like America, and that we have something very special that we have worked very hard to create and to maintain. I am thankful, though, for the number of people that still thank me and other Veterans for our service, even this many years since 9-11.”
Overall, the rewards of being a Marine Reservist are pretty obvious – doing his small part to help advance our national interests, and keep our nation free, he says.
“I also find it rewarding in my work at the City to be able to explain zoning and other laws to citizens, help them through the sometimes confusing process of government, and demonstrate to them why some regulation is useful for keeping the community safe and beautiful,” he says.
Being home now and holding down a full time job is great, however, there are some challenges to daily life.
“The most challenging thing for me is finding the time to balance a developing civilian career, an ongoing military career, a Master’s degree program, family and friends (local and in Michigan), and the special someone in my life, my girlfriend Maria. Working full-time, there isn’t a portion of the day carved out for exercise or studying, or socializing, so trying to find time to satisfy all my interests and obligations is a constant balancing act for me,” he says.
Born and raised in Michigan, Murdock says has some words of wisdom for those who might want to follow in his path: “The path I have taken has been stressful for me and put a great deal of strain on my loved ones. Yet, I feel I have much more experience in a variety of areas than many of my contemporaries, which has benefitted me, personally and professionally. Be resilient, strive to do more than the minimum, and learn from the inevitable failures that are a part of growing up and becoming your own person.”