5 Questions for Sergeant Charles “Semper Fi Fund has been there from rock bottom to help me grow”

What was your job while you were deployed to Iraq?

I was a scout. Our job was to clear cities. We pretty much did reconnaissance and door-knocking. We did some missions into other cities as part of a larger battalion effort, but my job was mostly to clear houses and check for caches of weapons.

What happened on the day of your injury?

Joined Army: 
1998
Unit:
1/15 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Benning
Deployments:
2000 (Korea)
2005 (Iraq) 
Medically Retired:
2007
Family Members:
Married 14 years with 3 children

An improvised explosive device. I was thrown from the vehicle and had shrapnel in my left leg. Because my back was messed up, I began to have problems standing up. I was going through physical therapy in-country. By the time my tour was over, I was having serious back issues. When I came home to the states I was having some problems, but my stuff was minor compared to a lot of people. I was medically retired for a herniated disc in my lower back and PTSD.

How did you get involved with the Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program?

I kind of fell into that one. I went to Mississippi for a Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program event, and they also had the Apprenticeship Program. I was completely blown away by the whole thing. During the event they found out I was into photography — which was my biggest way of getting out of the house. I’d just take my camera and go shoot things. I wanted to get on my feet and do my own entrepreneurship that way, but didn’t have the gear to do that type of work. All I had was a basic point-and-shoot camera. My skill set was higher than the equipment I was using. The Semper Fi Fund said, “We can help you if you’re interested.”

How did the Apprenticeship Program lead to you having your own business?

After the Apprenticeship Program, I went to another place to learn how to be an entrepreneur. I got some equipment that was at the level of my abilities. Now I’m doing really well. If you go to my website, dogtagimaging.com, you can see my work. I slowly started getting more clientele in town. People realized I had the equipment to do it and that I was doing great work. I’m working with the Semper Fi Fund now on getting a studio put in on my property. Right now we’re living where it’s cold and my shooting is limited to the summer, but if I can get a studio I can shoot year-round.

What would you tell others about the Semper Fi Fund and how it helped you?

When I look back, I was mentally in bad shape. It took me a long time to realize I needed help and to accept help. That’s when I started to change. Semper Fi Fund has been there for me when my car broke down to paying a couple of bills we weren’t able to pay so I could get back on my feet. Once I was back on my feet, I was able to start photography. Semper Fi Fund has been there from rock bottom to help me grow and deal with my personal demons so I can be a better person, a better father and a better husband.