From a very young age, Chad enjoyed activity and adventure, which ultimately lead him to becoming a United States Marine. “When I was younger, my family would go on trail rides with quads and jeeps, then we would spend time in the garage working on our vehicles. I also spent a lot of time with music. I played drums in our high school band and spent a year traveling with a drum and bugle corps where I played the baritone. I also wrestled and swam when I was younger.“
On a family trip to Hawaii, Chad fell in love with the island and made a plan. “After I graduated high school in 2006, I decided to attend Hawaii Pacific University to study marine biology. After spending most of my first year of college there, I realized that something was not right, this was not the path I was supposed to take. I spent some time away from college and finally realized that I had part of it right . . . Marine! So, after going and talking to a recruiter, I decided to enlist. I signed on 8/8/2008 and left for boot camp at Paris Island, SC in February 2009, graduating Mother's Day weekend in May 2009.”
From there Chad went on to the school of infantry and was then stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. During a leave, he came home and reconnected with a friend from high school, Renae. “We had known each other since we were younger because our families were friends. After that long weekend home, Renae and I had a long-distance relationship for a few months and then decided that we wanted to be closer so she moved to North Carolina and we got married.”
Chad’s first deployment was in January 2011 to Marjah, Afghanistan where he was injured and spent a few weeks in the hospital. Still, he finished out his deployment with the unit and returned home. Then, a few months later, he volunteered to deploy again. “I volunteered since they needed more men. Just prior to deployment, my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first child.”
Chad’s unit spent the winter clearing the mountain villages of Taliban and by spring worked its way down to Sangin Valley to clear it.
Then, on Saturday, May 26, 2012, the unit was struck. “We came up to a mosque and began to clear it of explosives. Four of us went in to clear out a tunnel when two of our men up top came upon an IED which killed one instantly and injured another. The other Marines and I went back outside the tunnel to his aide, and as he tried to sit up, he triggered a secondary IED which killed him instantly and severely wounded me and another Marine. I was blown about 20 feet down into an entrance of the tunnel. I remember looking down and seeing my left foot was turned backward and the inside of my right thigh was gone (I could see my femur). I reached for my tourniquets to tie off my legs and stop the bleeding.”
Chad was flown to Germany for multiple surgeries, then sent to Walter Reed in Bethesda, MD. “My family met me stateside when I arrived. I had another 30 trips to the operating room, and while in the hospital, my daughter Emma was born. Since I was in a bed, it was easy for me to hold and feed her and always had a flat surface for me to change her. I got to bond with her like probably no other father gets to. We even joke that Emma and I learned to walk at the same time.”
After several years of using prosthetics for his right leg and left foot, the devices started causing Chad more pain and even some infections. The doctors recommended amputating his left leg below the knee. “The amputation occurred in February 2021. At that point, I had to start the recovery part all over again. It is not a decision I regret, but it does bring new challenges to my life.”
Today, the house the couple lived in before the amputation is no longer accessible to Chad. “There are parts of my house that I simply can’t get to without much difficulty. My wife has to carry up all the groceries and items we buy so I can hop up the stairs on crutches. Then she has to bring my chair up. My wife has had to take on more responsibilities since my amputation and we both had plenty to deal with before. Having a house that I can get around in, go everywhere in, reach everything and have room for my chair to move around will make life much easier for our whole family. I sustained injuries to many regions of my body and I fatigue easily. Being able to stay in my chair and not have to be on crutches will alleviate that issue.”
Chad would like to start a small business in woodworking and leather making out of a workshop at home. “I am not a person to sit around all day, I need to stay busy and accomplish things. I hope that I can inspire other injured Marines into trying new things and to keep on keeping on. I think getting this house will help me do just that. I’ll get to tell my story to all who will listen and they will know there is always hope and help out there.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation looks forward to building Chad and his family a home where they can make new memories and enjoy a full family life together.