I miss SSG Carter Chick very much. He was an incredible warrior, a loving husband, and a great father. I know his family misses him even more. I wear a memorial bracelet on my left wrist that I never take off, so that I won't at any point forget to be grateful. Carter always believed in this project and most importantly, he always believed in me as a man. He had my back at my lowest points, not even beginning to question my resolve. The Army and the Marines were better because of him. Carter deployed to Somalia with the USMC when the Battle for Mogadishu was ongoing. He re-joined (this time as a member of the Army) after September 11th and deployed four times to Iraq as a Cav Scout. I'll always remember Staff Sergeant Chick as a man who put the men under him first, and as someone who got the job done at all costs. He never sucked up to anyone in leadership, and he always acted selflessly. When SSG Chick spoke up with that Marine bravado, you knew to absolutely listen to every word that would come from that Texas drawl. But, you also knew that he said it out of love. If leadership was wrong, he wanted to know about it no matter what. If you thought he was wrong (he might fight you on it) he wanted to know as well. To me, that type of leadership in the Army is disappearing. I can't speak for the Marine Corps because I was never a part, but I do know I wish there were more Sergeant Chicks in the Army. He was a rare breed that always led from the front, and never expected you to do something he wouldn't do first. He was at times polarizing, and I don't think everyone in my unit was a fan of his. That made me like him even more. He didn't care what others thought if it was hurting our mission or team mentality.
Can you tell me a little bit about why you joined the Marines and then why you joined the National Guard after your service with the Marines?
CC: I joined the USMC because they had pretty uniforms for one (laughs), and I wanted to be the best. Growing up, I had an uncle that served in the Marines, called a China Marine and he would tell me stories and I was enamored with him. I joined and I loved it, but I got a little tired of all the deployments in four years so I was young and got out to try and start a family. I joined the National Guard because after September 11th I went to the Marines to reenlist and the Marines have a certain quota for prior service recruits. They told me to come back in eight months and I thought the war would be over in eight months. Someone told me about the National Guard so I contacted a recruiter and told him I wanted to go infantry. I was told there was no infantry units in Texas but they had something very similar called a cav scout, so I joined up as a scout.
What was the hardest thing about being away from home?
CC: Not being there. You miss everything. I got activated in 2004. It’s now 2014. I finally got home full-time in 2013. I missed birthdays, anniversaries, baseball games, football games, stuff at school. You realize that yeah I’m their dad and husband, but I’m not there so how good could I be? You ask my youngest who’s seven, and I’ve missed almost all of his life. I’m trying to make up for it now, but what’s gone is gone. I can only move forward and they can only move forward with memories we make now.
What’s the hardest part about the actual deployment?
CC: The hardest part about being deployed is not even really saying good-bye. For me, when I was overseas what I tried to do was forget that I had a family, forget that I had anything other than the guys around me on that day-to-day mission. ‘Cause I found that if I was focused on my family and thinking. “Gosh, I’ve got another nine months to go,” it just made things harder. You start losing focus over there and it makes your tour longer. The hardest thing for me on deployments is when a mission doesn’t go right, when it goes bad. And by go bad, you may actually succeed in the mission but that buddy gets wounded or dies. That’s hard because you know everything about that guy. You probably drink beer with him. You know his family history, wife’s name, his kid’s names. You might’ve even met them. That’s the hardest thing.
Now on the other side of that, what’s it like coming home? What’s the hardest part of that?
CC: The hardest part? A couple things. One, trying to remember that your wife and your kids aren’t soldiers or marines. They don’t take orders. It’s remembering that you’re not in a combat environment anymore. You’re not gonna have that M9 on your hip, you’re not going to have that M4 slung. Ya know, it’s happened to a lot of guys. Walking down the street or walking in the mall and you have this freaking panic attack. You’re like, “O crap, I lost my weapon. Where’s my weapon?" Then you realize, "O yeah, I don’t have that anymore." But really, I mean, the hardest is reintegrating with your family. You’ve gotta understand that you’re home. They’re not a soldier and they’re not going to take orders. And, nobody is going to shoot at you in Royce City, Texas.
Talk a little bit about the superhero mantra that civilians attach to soldiers.
CC: Not a superhero and not a hero period. There are heroes, yes. There are guys that come home missing both arms, both legs doing a job that very few people have the guts to do. There are heroes that get the Medal of Honor that jump on a grenade and save their buddy. They go above and beyond what the rest of us do. We’re not heroes. We are doing a job. There are heroes and your average soldier we’re not it. Guys that didn’t come home… They gave their all. Guys that came home with missing limbs, Medal of Honor winners, guys that didn’t come home… They’re the true heroes in my opinion.
I'd like to thank Carter Chick for being a part of The Veterans Project. Although I can't do that anymore, I know he knew that I was grateful for his willingness. He let me follow him around when the project was just started and I really had no idea what I was doing. That was the same kind of faith he showed in me as a soldier, and I'll always be appreciative of that.