Michael I. Neil was born in Long Beach, California in 1940 and got his law degree form Boalt Hall School of Law (now Berkeley Law), University of California at Berkeley in 1966.

From his graduation ceremony, Neil enlisted and joined the Marine Corps advancing to their officer school. He arrived in Vietnam in June 1967. At the age of 26, the Marines made him platoon commander of the Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

Within weeks, Michael Neil was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action.

Vietnam WarLater, his men were in the thick of the battle at Phouc Ninh, a battle that took place in the depth of the jungles of Vietnam, much of it hand-to-hand.

The Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery in the United States Navy, was awarded on to First Lieutenant Michael I. Neil of the United States Marine Corps for his actions during the Phouc Ninh battle:

"For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), during operations against the enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam, on 20 December 1967.

"Informed by a squad sized ambush patrol that an estimated 100 Viet Cong were moving toward its position at Phouc Ninh, in Quang Nam Province, First (then Second) Lieutenant Neil quickly organized a 12-man reaction force and led his small unit to the assistance of the patrol. Disregarding the intrense fire, he led his men across 1,300 meters of thickly forested terrain to the Marine patrol which was heavily engaged with the enemy force. When the advance was halted by intense small-arns fire, automatic weapons and rifle grenade fire from the hostile positions, he, with completer disregard for his own safety, exposed himself to the devestating fire to hurl hand grenades and direct his men's fire which momentarily silenced the enemy weapons.Michael I. Neil

"Suddenly, the Marines came under mortar fire. Shouting words of encouragement to his men, he boldly moved through the hail of enemy fire, leading an assault against the enemy positions. Observing a wounded comrade in an exposed position he removed his armored vest and placed it over the casualty to protect him from further injury. Picking up the wounded man's M-79 Grenade Launcher, he delivered intense and accurate fireagainst the enemy.

"When the momentum of the attack decreased, he rallied his men and led a determined assault into the face of the enemy fire. Throwing hand grenades as he advanced, he destroyed a machine-gun emplacement and mortally wounded several enemy with his pistol. By his bold initiave, gallant fighting spirit, and loyal devotion to duty, Lieutenant Neil reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Upon his return to America in 1968, and not unlike many of his fellow Vietnam war veterans, he was disillusioned by the attitude of the American people towards his contributions. When the time came, 1973, for the United States to withdraw from Vietnam, the communist North Vietnamese were quick to overwhelm the whole country.

Neil was recruited by the Judge Advocate General office in San Diego and served as prosecutor and defence counsel in court martial and other disciplinary proceedings, until he was released from duty in 1970.

Neil opened a bar (Randy O'Neil's in downtown San Diego) and built a litigation practice at the 27-lawyer San Diego law firm of Neil, Dymott, Frank, McFall & Trexler located in San Diego, California.

In 1990, during the Persian Gulf War, and at the age of 50, and by this time a Brigadier General, Michael Neil was called up from the reserve list to active duty as temporary Commander of the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.