Overcoming Obstacles With Marine Corp Veteran Chuck Ray
SNIPPET # 47
Chuck Ray knows it’s best to take the fight to the enemy. The decorated Marine Corps veteran did that three times in his military career, with one deployment to Al Anbar Iraq and two deployments to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He survived countless battles and buried too many brothers on these deployments. Then an IED ended his career.
Chuck Ray knows he’s lucky the IED didn’t kill him, but frustration fills his voice as he says, “I wasn’t done yet.”
Like it or not, Chuck’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) sent him straight to early medical retirement.
Chuck Ray had been a Marine for 9 years – since he was 17 years old.
Now, while most young men his age were getting their first student loan statements, Chuck was just beginning to think about what to do with his new life.
Civilian life is something he hadn’t wavered from forfeiting as a teenager. His work ethic reflected his disinterest in school and he’d been living each day by rote, drifting with no sense of purpose.
Like so many serving today, 9/11 slammed his purpose right into him.
His father laughed as he signed his parental consent, betting Chuck wouldn’t make it through boot camp. But the joke was on him when Chuck left Parris Island in uniform. He wasn’t old enough to have a legal beer or vote for his president, but he was a United States Marine, and he was about to take the fight to the enemy.
His entire military career was about combat. If he wasn’t on a combat deployment he was training for one. His young brain developed in lock-step with war and all the things a Marine does and sees and feels in that war. It was all he knew, and then it was over.
There was so much Chuck didn’t know about himself. He had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, and wasn’t sure how to fit in to the civilian world. “I’ll take some time off,” he thought. He’d earned it.
After about a week of X-Box, Chuck still didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he knew his time off idea was not going to work. Complacency leads to stagnation. Stagnation is the enemy of well-being. If he sat around and waited for something to happen, that enemy would attack his mind and spirit, and he would lose his own life’s battle. So with the same drive he’d applied to everything he did in the Marines, he took the fight to his enemy, and declared war on complacency.
It didn’t matter to Chuck Ray if he tried and failed. It mattered that he keep trying until he found his new purpose.
His early efforts aligned specifically with his service- in theory, that is. He’d been a combat lifesaver in the military. In the swirl of battle he’d treated sucking chest wounds, double amputees, and other gravely injured patients.
The nursing field seemed like a good follow-up to that experience, he thought, until he realized the teeny tiny increments at which he would “graduate” to being permitted to actually practice those same skills. When he learned he wasn’t even allowed to place a Band-Aid on a scrape without several levels of certification. Chuck knew it was time for him to move on.
He’s done everything from working at a casket warehouse, to veteran non-profits, to working as a Veterans Services Officer. Each career he tried seemed to make sense as an extension of his experiences in the military. They were logical choices, but they were not the right fits.
Mission clarity faded. Once again Chuck Ray called upon his military experience to dispel the haze.
More than once in his military career, Chuck felt twinges of doubt. So many friends were killed. So many places they’d fought and died securing had been left undefended and fallen back into chaos.
The senselessness was disheartening at times. When his doubt grew stronger, Chuck reminded himself of the mission by taking stock of the good things he’d seen and experienced.
The improvement in many areas was undeniable. Loosening terror’s grip, even slightly, allowed innocent civilians to experience doses of freedom and restore their own resilience. Contractors under military protection built schools and repaired buildings. Education outside of a mosque introduced new concepts and understanding.
Chuck knew he was a part of bringing a better life to people in desperate need of such. He realized he was doing his part to minimize terrorist’s ability to inflict the same atrocities upon his own homeland. His mission was clear again.
With clarity of mission came strengthened resolve to accomplish that mission. This held true in his military career, and Chuck knew it would hold true again. He strengthened his resolve and took another chance. This time, it was with a company he respected but in a job he knew nothing about – and it was a perfect fit.
His days of rejecting certain paths because they weren’t in direct step with his tangible skills were over. His notion that his maturity and experience overqualified him for an entry-level job was readjusted. He knew now it wasn’t his skills that mattered, but his traits.
The work ethic he’d been devoid of in high school was now coursing through his veins. His commitment to a task, his determination to succeed, his belief in a team mission, made him an invaluable asset. A foot in the door at an entry-level position, in a job he knew nothing about, was his new idea of perfection. From there he’d let his intelligence and his work ethic speak for themselves.
Today, Chuck is a marketing director at Grunt Style, the innovative company that is bringing patriotism and pride back to households across America. If anyone had told Chuck his new niche would be retail marketing and customer service, he’d have promptly suggested they switch their meds. He laughs now at the marked change in his life’s trajectory.
“Everything deemed ‘worth it’ has some inherent risk,” Chuck says.
He accepted great risk to defend freedom in this country and bring it to others. He accepted the challenge of life with lingering TBI symptoms, and the potential to fail at each professional endeavor. He’s seen people get caught in the ‘What if’ trap, worrying about all the potential mishaps that accompany bold moves, and he’s using lessons learned in the military to outwit self-doubt and fear. Asked what advice he has for others struggling against the same enemies of fulfillment, Chuck offered the following:
Endure anything that comes your way. Don’t throw up your hands and give up when you’re tossed a curveball. Do something fulfilling to you – give back to the community… contribute to society in some capacity.
Adapt. Learn. Develop.
People like Chuck put themselves on the front lines. They take the fight against terrorism to the enemy so that they cannot do to this country, what they are doing to others. He’s done his part to pave the path to success for his fellow Americans. The rest is up to us.