On June 3, 2022, United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Michael John Kardoes suddenly and tragically passed away due to multiple undiagnosed cancers attributed to his military service. Kardoes passed away less than eighteen hours after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Kardoes was born in Buffalo Center, Iowa, and was raised on a farm outside of Titonka in northern Iowa. He was well-liked in school, played sports, excelled in academics, and performed in band and theater. His sarcastic and witty humor was well received by his peers and teachers. Being the youngest child by five years, Kardoes learned to be content with his own company, and he learned to be tough by keeping up with his older siblings. He learned to fix things as needed and to be self-reliant always. As a child, Kardoes loved Star Wars, reading, looking through his telescope, and pheasant hunting with his brother. He continued to be an avid reader in high school and added a love of sports and music. He was blessed with an intact family that vacationed with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Kardoes and his wife, Nicole, were childhood friends and sweethearts. They attended church and school together. However, she and her family moved, and the two did not see each other often. The pair reconnected after Kardoes graduated from USAFA during the summer 1994, and they were married that December.
Kardoes was inspired to join the Air Force while watching life flight helicopters landing at the hospital that his sister worked at. He wanted to fly helicopters and was ambitious about it in the humblest of ways. Kardoes was accepted into the USAFA in 1990 and graduated in 1994. He began UPT in 1994 at Vance AFB. If one thing was true, it was that flying was Kardoes’s true calling. He loved every part of it – training flights, instructing, writing regs, SAR missions in the mountains, VIP flights in Washington D.C., flying in the States, flying in Afghanistan, strategic planning, leading, and mentoring. He had a strong belief in what he was doing, and he was proud of it. Kardoes had goals to be the best leader, mentor, and flier he could be. He wanted to advocate for the service members under him, and he wanted to mentor young officers. He always said he wanted to leave each unit better than when he arrived. Throughout his career Kardoes was awarded a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan along with Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster, and others. He was most proud of his pilot’s wings, being a squadron commander, and his service in Afghanistan.
Nicole currently lives with their six children: Ryan, Jillian, Rebecca, Linda, G. John, and Monta. Kardoes’s last big surprise gift to his wife was a beautiful Arabian mare that she had been admiring. She loves to ride as much as possible with three of their daughters who also have a love of horses. As a family they enjoy traveling, watching Netflix, eating, skiing, and discussing politics, books, and religion. She and Kardoes worked intentionally to teach their children that each of them are designed for a purpose and with gifts for that purpose. Nicole hopes to continue to encourage her kids to lives with courage, work for the hard things, and love fiercely and unconditionally – just like their father. In the future Nicole hopes to be of some service to other families who finds themselves in similar situations as her; whether it is to bring awareness to burn pit exposure, to minister in some way to families that lose their husband and father, or to work for an organization that does such. The Kardoes family is grateful to Tunnel to Towers for allowing them to remain the place that they chose as their forever home. Here they can grieve, remember, and heal. Nicole would like others to know that if Kardoes were given the future and a chance to choose, he would have chosen to go anyway. He would gladly sacrifice his own life to save someone else’s. He had faith in his wife and his family and knew they were strong and supportive of him. He would expect them to love each other well, to help each other heal, and to thrive walking forward. Kardoes lived his life with no regrets.
United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Michael John Kardoes is survived by wife, Nicole, and his six children: Ryan, Jillian, Rebecaa, Linda, G. John, and Monta.