By Thad Ayers | Edmond Sun | Edmondsun.com | June 8, 2012
EDMOND – Cpl. Marcus Chischilly felt like someone shoved him down real hard when the IED exploded in Afghanistan.
He remembers everything that happened that day. Only a month into his fourth deployment, him and his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment of the U.S. Marines, took fire while on a mission.
Chischilly said the unit returned fire and were running around, when he stepped on the explosive Oct. 9, 2010.
He knew his left leg was done for.
“It split pretty much, I think, right in half,” he said. “From the knee down was pretty much gone.”
Chischilly, called “Chilly,” was then taken to Germany to receive life-saving surgery. After a few days there he went stateside to Bethesda, Md., and had more surgeries to repair his shrapnel-ridden right leg and arms.
Doctors were able to save Chilly's right leg by grafting in muscle from his hamstring and gluteus. Similar such grafts preserved his scarred left and right arms.
Since then, Chilly has been recovering at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He walked four months after his injuries, on a prosthetic leg, and began finding sports to occupy himself and push his recovery.
“I didn’t play sports in high school,” he said. “I wasn’t really into it.”
Then Chilly discovered swimming, hand cycling and wheelchair basketball and fell in love.
Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial support to injured U.S. Armed Forces members, it helps with finances during hospitalization, as well as assistance with continuing needs of military members, helped Chilly pay for his hand cycle with a grant.
The fund has issued about 43,000 grants totaling more than $62 million since it was established in 2004, according to the nonprofit’s website.
He has competed in four cycling marathons, including the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon June 3.
Now he is participating in his first Paralympic events at the 13th University of Central Oklahoma Endeavor Games.
“Everyone here has a physical or mental disability, so you definitely feel like it’s your place to compete,” he said. “So you get a chance to come out and swim against other people and cycle against other people.”
He competed the 20K Cycling Event Friday, which began and ended at POPS Restaurant and in the 3-on-3 Wheelchair Basketball tournament at the UCO Wellness Center.
Not only is this Chilly’s first Paralympic event, but it’s also his first event with children.
“I’ve never seen an amputated child ever,” he said. “It warms my heart. It feels good to know they’re out there still living their life.
“It gives me a lot of personal strength in a way seeing these little kids that are going to live the same way I’m going to live, but they’re young. I had to do it when I was 23.”
He said he also gets hope from seeing the older Paralympians at the Endeavor Games because it shows him his future.
Chilly is now 25. He and his wife Antania, 21, have two sons, Ryan, 3, and Avary. They are also expecting a third child.
The boys don’t seem bothered that their father appears different, Chilly said. But they have noticed him lately.
“Now that they’re getting older, I catch them watching me a lot,” he said. “I’m sure that when they’re older they’ll see it enough times that they’ll know that that’s how Daddy looks.”
Chilly said he sees his children having a father who is a little different could also prove advantages.
“Not everybody knows what this is,” he said as he grabs his prosthetic leg. “My children growing up in that community and in that environment — and being aware of it — I think they’ll have a different perspective as far as how they see people with disabilities and how they see themselves.”
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Chilly has his lows as well as his highs, but he said he uses sports, his family and friends to help keep things in perspective.
“There some things I wish I could just wake up in the morning and go do, but it takes a little more planning, a little more time,” he added. “Competing like this definitely takes its place because you get around to the Paralympics and things like the Endeavor Games.”
After his life-altering injury, Chilly was determined to still be a part of the Marine Corps, but later realized his body couldn’t hold up to the physical demands.
“I had a heart that was pretty solid to go back into the Marine Corps,” he said.
He now attends San Diego’s branch of Vincennes University, where he plans to go into radiology.
And even though he’s transitioning out of the Marines, he is a part of the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Battalion West.
So although he may be “Semper Fidelis,” and not able to serve, he is, however, still in the fight.