Helping Others Like Me - An Instructor's Story

I was the youngest son of a pastor, and I gave my life to Christ at a very young age. Growing up the youngest son of a pastor, I enjoyed bringing friends from school to church and working with the youth pastor, counselors and Sunday school teacher, actively working with my friends to lead them to Christ. That was something that I really enjoyed doing, as you start to get older, people’s perspectives and priorities change. I got older, and though I kept going to church – my dad is a dynamic preacher who is bringing the word and changing the church, modernizing the church and running a growing, youthful church, it turned into a really vibrant church.

Throughout early teenage years I didn’t have too much going on, I wasn’t too popular but my dad always had all this crazy stuff going on. My senior of high school, my father was forced to resign from the church and all those things that I thought were permanent were gone now. I felt directionless, I didn’t blame God but I asked him something like this could happen, I started messing around with the other side of the law – nothing too ridiculous, but I was worried I’d end up dead or in jail. So, for direction, I joined the marines.

My dad and grandfather had been in the military (military dad and navy grandpa), I went to Paris island, (when you get to the receiving building at Paris island, you’re on a bus or you’re on a van, and they give you your brief, and they scream at you to get off the bus and on the yellow footprints – so you get off the bus, where there are yellow footprints on the ground to show you how to line up in formation, and fit my feet in those footprints. I knew I belonged there.

I graduated June 12, 1998, I went through training and reported to duty station August 24, 1998. Fleet marine force, I knew I belonged there, because you don’t question where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do, and I just excelled. I was smart, I retained the knowledge, and I sought out responsibility because I wanted to be a leader and prove that I deserved to be in leadership positions. The first three years I did a lot of training and learned a lot, and then the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001.

I knew something was going to happen so I re-enlisted as soon as I could (December 2nd, for another four years) and I was promoted to Sgt. The following June. And January of 2003 I deployed to Iraq. The invasion started, I wasn’t over the border for ten or fifteen minutes, and artillery started landing all around us for what seemed like forever. All of us accepted that we weren’t going to make it – but we would kill more of them than they killed of us.

That was my first contact with the enemy, from the march up to Baghdad there was sporadic, harassing contact with the enemy. That changed when my unit was given the mission to cross over the Saddam canal, and that’s where we made our first direct contact with the enemy. They were surprised by us, like a confusion for a second, then all heck just broke loose. That was where I killed my first man, it was a very close incident, less than a hundred feet, and it lasted for quite a while, then the next day we pushed into another Iraqi city, and we knew that the remnants – the leftover people from that unit, were there waiting. We knew it’d be a bad one and it was, we rolled through a fire fight, made contact almost immediately as soon as the sun came up and it didn’t stop til the sun went down.

Two things stuck out in my brain – the first was an RPG that was fired at my Humvee, and my driver was freaking out, and I turned around and I looked at him and asked “What?” and right at that moment the RPG struck a palm tree right behind him. It was insane, tanks, firing. The second thing is that I saw a second RPG, burning, heading straight toward the Humvee, it detonated right in the back of the Humvee. The smoke cleared not even a second or two after that, and the Humvee wasn’t driving anymore it was drifting and that’s when I realized everyone was dead. Another one came toward us and my Lieutenant appeared again in the turret. It was unbelievable. He was covered in blood but still alive.

The next day, another officer from a bigger unit volunteered to lead us.  It was another fire fight and we could hardly see, we were just trying to get our bearings. The lieutenant was calling for us, asking if we saw anything, and then I saw the enemy and let him know and not ten minutes after that I heard someone calling “Scout 6 (Lieutenant's position), get somebody back in that turret!” and then we heard “He’s shot! He’s shot!”

We called a casualty unit and it was thought that we could save him it was ordered urgent surgical, but then they changed that to “routine.” So we knew he had expired.

This is when I felt that there was a real soul in the human body, seeing his lifeless body, I knew that there was such a thing as a soul because his body wasn’t him anymore. About five minutes later we encountered another body of another person we knew. He had been decapitated by an RPG. It continued on like that, but we maintained contact for quite a while after that. The idea of Post Traumatic stress came up right around the time that we were about to come home, and we thought it was a joke because we were these conquering, liberating heroes.

When you get back, you’re so relieved to see your buddies, and this time it was different. We had nothing to do for a summer, and all we did was party at different people’s houses. They would always start out festive but end up sad.

Our stuff came back and we started training and we had orders to go back again, in 2004 (August), we were there for the whole Fallujah things. That was the greatest loss of life I’ve ever seen, all kinds of marines were killed and their acts of heroism that you can’t possibly imagine.

Seeing the bad guys hurt didn’t bother me, but seeing marines dead pissed me off, and that anger was just redirected sorrow and hurt. I came back with a very bad taste in my mouth. I saw a private security company get ambushed and I helped them, without thinking about it, and later was asked about it. I told them what happened, and they tried to push me to Court Marshall for that – because I hadn’t asked for help. This floored me, I came back home in a state of disbelief that they would do that to me, that they didn’t like the decision I made to try to help those guys. The private security company saved me, by making a statement that if I hadn’t helped them they’d be dead.

Right before I left the marine corps, I met a woman and started a family and suddenly the marines wasn’t my number one priority anymore. I found out that three of my guys got smoked in an IED attack, and I knew that that particular incident wouldn’t have happened if I had been there. And I blamed that on my new family – if I hadn’t gotten married, gotten pregnant, decided to start a family it wouldn’t have happened because I would’ve been there to stop it. I got out of the marine corps and I wasn’t doing anything, I didn’t have a job that was paying anything and a third kid was on the way.

So I decided to go contracting, so I went back overseas as a contractor in 2008 (left marine corps in 2006), and I immediately felt significant again. I had all this knowledge that I could put to use. I started getting recognized, making lots of money, and I was important again, and I would talk about my family like they were the greatest thing ever, but in my private time skyping with my wife I would call her names, try to run my household with an iron fist – but I felt that they couldn’t do anything right.

Quality time wasn’t there, and when I went home I would be immediately angry and drink. It was like that for six years, and toward the end of that six years everything just fell apart – I had done too much damage to my kids and my wife. And I decided to go home because I didn’t want to lose my family, I got down on my knees and I asked God to take away my hatred and despair, and when I got home I was walking thewalk and talking the talk of a Christian man. Because I knew how to. I got home as a “brand new” person, and my wife was like “Who are you? I don’t know who you are. This is weird, you’re fake.”

And I started going to church, and was doing all the right things, but it didn’t have the effect that I was hoping it would. Before I knew it, I was filed for divorce, leaving my kids in 2013, drove away from my house for the last time as the husband and father to my wife and three kids. Over the next several months things got worse, I would find excuses not to go over there, thinking about how it hurt me to be there – not thinking about how it would hurt them for me not to be there.

I went on a business trip to East Africa in late July of last year and on the way back I got a text message from the church saying Chad Robichaux would be there giving a talk and I should come. I didn’t go, and later while I was there setting some things, the pastor cornered me and lovingly tried to tell me that I was a train wreck and needed to go to the veterans program. I came to Sky Rose Ranch in August of 2014, and all the guys were just like me – but different. I saw Christ working in everyone. I could feel the conviction of the holy spirit on me, and I finally submitted to God at the program last year.  I was so thankful to everyone for what they did, for the instructors, and I went home and started to fix the relationship with the kids, but I couldn’t save the relationship with my wife. And a couple of weeks after I got home, Chad called me and asked me to come out here to help and become an instructor.

 Shortly after that I felt the call the ministry, and I asked God if he wanted me in ministry. At that moment, I felt an overwhelming sensation in my body, ad I knew that that was what God wanted. The day I got a job offer with a Vets organization, Chad called me with a job offer. For the first time in my life I submitted to God, I want to do his will. I miss my kids more than you’ll ever know, but I know that God has a plan for me and in His time I’ll be back with my kids, and He is going to use me to reach men who are just like me. And that’s the only thing I want in life now – to help those who were just like me .