Michael Mendoza always knew he’d go into the military. It’s been a dream of his since he was a child.
“I wanted to shoot things, blow things up and jump out of planes,” Mendoza said.
He got his chance shortly after enlisting in the Marines after high school graduation. With time, Mendoza’s military goals enhanced.
“Anyone can go to school,” Mendoza said. “I went to school and served my country.”
Mendoza was deployed to Iraq for the second time in 2004. During that time he earned a Silver Star Medal in combat operations where he was injured during a mission in a grenade attack.
“We engaged insurgents and one of them got close enough to throw a grenade right next to me. It took me out pretty good,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza’s platoon was ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade disabled his vehicle. According to military records, Mendoza ‘organized and led five Marines in a charge across an open field and across a deep and muddy canal to firing positions within hand grenade range of the enemy. The vigor of this first assault eliminated 10 insurgents, while forcing others to retreat.’ During this time the commanding officer was wounded from an insurgent hiding in a nearby trench. Mendoza “decisively engaged and neutralized’ that enemy.
As a result, Mendoza’s lungs, stomach, small intestines, diaphragm and spleen were severely damaged. He had emergency surgery in Iraq before returning home for more operations and to recover.
Seven months later he re-enlisted. His military career wasn’t finished.
“It was what I was good at,” he said. “It’s what I did.”
Mendoza enrolled in sniper school and was one of the eight graduates from a class that started with 31. He was again deployed to Iraq in 2006 as well as 2007.
During that time, Mendoza remained in Iraq and worked as private security for diplomats until his return home in November.
While Mendoza is no longer on active military duty, the Purple Heart recipient continues to serve his countrymen. Mendoza used the discipline he learned while in service and saved the majority of his earnings to start a cleaning business.
“I put in a lot of research and time because I had to get it right. This was my life savings,” he said.
With the help of government grants for disabled veterans Mendoza started Apex Cleaning Services, Inc. in December – one month after returning home.
Apex Operations contracts with building managements and managers for janitorial and carpet-cleaning work. He also does residential and commercial properties. Seventy-five percent of the business has been carpet cleaning with the remainder being janitorial work done for office buildings.
“I have small accounts now,” Mendoza said. “I’m getting more no’s than yes’ but I have to keep working hard.”
Most of Mendoza’s business has been through referrals.
“People love the personal touch,” Mendoza said. “We’re not a big company. We take our time, however long that is, and get the job done right.”
Mendoza said he holds his staff to a higher standard and accepts nothing but the best.
“I do background checks on every single employee” Mendoza says. “My employees wear uniforms and are professional. We will not conform to stereotypes – no one wants a sloppy person in their home.”
Mendoza gives significant discounts to servicemen and educators.
“They deserve it,” he said. “I have to look out for those who look out for others.”
Mendoza isn’t having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. He met his wife in economics class his senior year at Rich South High School. They’re raising their two children in Tinley Park. When the kids aren’t keeping Mendoza busy he’s participating in some sort of physical activity whether it’s being on the softball and volleyball teams or exercising at the gym.
Mendoza has fulfilled his military goals now he looks to apply those same principles and serve the community through cleaning.