Corvallis, OR (WTOL) - Ditch the stereotype or preconceived notion of what you think a cheerleader is supposed to be - University of Toledo's Michael Ertle isn't your typical cheerleader.
"In the role of a male cheerleader, you don't think macho," said Ertle. "If I can change some minds, that's cool."
It's safe to say, Ertle is a big guy. But that's only part of the story.
Ertle served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq with the United States Marine Corp. He's now medically retired after being injured in multiple IED attacks.
"I had pretty severe PTSD," said Ertle. "It's something I still deal with. In the infantry, on the front lines, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, you see some things and it's not always easy to process. Sometimes it takes years. I've dealt with night terrors and nightmares, lost times, blacking out, so it's not easy."
Ertle served from 2006 to 2015. He was part of initial pushes that took over enemy strongholds. He's been places most people could never even imagine.
"A lot of my friends didn't come home; a lot of my friends came home with triple, quadruple amputees and they've had their own struggles," said Ertle. "It's hard to process. One day you're sitting around with your friends, and the next you're picking up his body parts."
Since returning to the University of Toledo, he's rejoined the cheer squad. At 34, he's certainly the veteran of the group, and cheerleading is his escape.
"Here in Oregon, traveling with the team at the NCAA Tournament, not a lot of people get that opportunity," said Ertle. "It's also a sense of team, and that's one of the things I missed after the Marine Corps - That sense of camaraderie, brotherhood, being part of something bigger. In a way, it truly is that for me now."