5 Questions for Sergeant Chris : “Semper Fi Fund has helped me so much … they’ve given me a purpose”

“I’ve been blown up four times: twice in Iraq and twice in Afghanistan,” says Chris, who notes that “the one that pretty much ended my military career” took place in Afghanistan in 2011. The vehicle Chris was in encountered an IED and flipped six times. While the explosion left him partially paralyzed on his left side (doctors found six vertebrae had been shattered), Chris has become extremely active in outdoor activities as a result of his involvement with the Semper Fi Fund. He counts his two sons, ages 8 and 7, as being a primary motivation for staying positive and looking to the future.

Can you tell us about the first time you encountered an IED?

June 2005
1st Marine Division Headquarters Battalion Truck Company out of Camp Pendleton, California
Iraq (2008-2009)
Afghanistan (2011)

The first one was in Iraq. I was on the outskirts of Ramadi, and we were driving by a little creek. We had driven this road countless times so it had become routine for us. We normally never stopped on this road, but for some reason, this time we did. I think we had a vehicle breakdown. Since I was the mechanic, I got out, went to the vehicle and looked at it. I got it fixed and went back to my vehicle. By the time I got back in, the enemy had somehow gotten an IED underneath my vehicle. It exploded, causing my vehicle to flip. Everybody in my vehicle except for me and one other was killed.

How did you first learn about the Semper Fi Fund?

When I got back from my last deployment in 2011, I needed to get checked out by my doctor, because there was something wrong. I wasn’t able to run, I wasn’t able to do anything. I was blacking out regularly and having issues breathing. I was having issues carrying a pack, or even working or concentrating properly. I was always losing my train of thought. I went to the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Camp Pendleton, and that’s how I originally found out about Semper Fi Fund. They said they were going to take care of the troops and their families. They met and exceeded those goals which I thought was amazing.

Can you tell us a little about your involvement in the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program?

It took a few months for me to re-teach myself how to ride a horse since my shoulder was constantly dislocated. I started learning how to re-ride, and I started enjoying myself and getting into it a lot more. The Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program did an internship/boot camp with me to see what I was interested in. I told them I wanted to be outdoors all the time and enjoy myself, so they hooked me up with Pathfinder Ranch. I met with one of the directors and did a few seminars with them, and noticed that I started really enjoying myself again. They started bringing kids into the equation, and I was able to help them with their disabilities. There are some disabled adults, too. Some are missing limbs, some completely paralyzed from the waist down. I’ve had a few that are three-quarters paralyzed and barely had any strength in their arms, but they still do rock climbing.

The Semper Fi Fund assisted you in obtaining something called Irlen lenses. Can you tell us how they’ve helped you?

I was having frequent migraines day in and day out, whether it was cloudy or sunny. I had to be pretty much in a dark room at all times. They found a way to stop a lot of people’s migraines that were caused by the UV lights — a lot of people’s eyes do not adjust to it. They sent me to  get looked at, and they found out I was light-sensitive. Certain lights bothered my eyes, which caused my headaches. The Fund helped pay for the glasses. I haven’t had headaches as frequently as I used to. My last major headache was four or five months ago, and it was because I wasn’t wearing the glasses.

What do you see in the future for yourself?

I see myself opening an outdoor adventure course for disabled people and having the Semper Fi Fund out there on a regular basis with any and all that are interested in participating. I want to open the world to people with all disabilities and to encourage them to strive to do more than they think they can. If they want to advance themselves or continue with their growth, I would be more than willing to help them with it. Since Semper Fi Fund has helped me so much, I look at helping them wherever I can and whenever I can — they’ve been with me every single step. They’ve given me a purpose.