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Friday, December 19, 2003

ANOTHER TOUGH MARINE!

Marine with prosthetic limb jumps into history books
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps
Story Identification Number: 2003121810733
Story by Cpl. Isaac Pacheco

NOTE:
See a similar story, ONE TOUGH MARINE!, S/Sgt Donald Hamblen USMC, in the notes, book Reviews below this article.
-GyG


FORT BENNING ARMY BASE, Ga.(Dec. 18, 2003) -- High above the eastern Alabama countryside, the deafening roar of a C-130's engines drowns out the instructor's urgent commands. The shadowy figures sitting behind him respond instinctively. In the dim light, the instructor can see only a few of their taut, weathered faces.

Focused on the task at hand, with fearless and eager expressions on their faces, the shadowy figures emerge from the darkness. They've blocked out all distractions and the only thing they respond to is the angry man in front of them whose insistence on perfection they've grudgingly come to admire.

Upon rising to their feet, more than 20 of them sardine back-to-back against the bright red bench that runs the length of the aircraft. They feel ready. After all, this is why they've trained for the past three weeks.

The plane makes a steep left turn and lights flash on above the open doors on each side of the fuselage. One minute to go. A wave of glove-covered hands reaches upward for the yellow static lines. The front man in the line turns and shouts commands over his shoulder through the rushing air, "Chalk 5, all clear!"

"Chalk 5, all clear!" the instructor echoes.

The lights above the doors flash green. The instructor, who has remained fairly passive up to this point, explodes.

"Get out! Go, go, go!" he bellows as he pushes each body out of the plane.

As each jumper touched the sky, his pack springs to life releasing a life-saving parachute.

Behind the plane, a trail of giant green blossoms can be seen floating gracefully to the ground.

In addition to being yet another successful day on the job for the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course students, this jump turned out to be history in the making. This was the first class to graduate a Marine who had been retained on active duty with a prosthetic limb.

Sgt. Christopher Chandler, an Aurora, Colo., native, lost his left leg from below the knee Dec. 16, 2001, when he stepped on a land mine while providing security for an explosives ordnance disposal unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was one of the first service members injured in the Global War on Terrorism, but unlike some of his wounded counterparts, he refused to let the accident diminish his resolve.

"I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself," Chandler, a maintenance technician for Headquarters Company, Marine Forces Atlantic, explained. "While I was in the hospital, other injured veterans visited me. I saw that compared to them I had nothing to complain about."

It's been said that the truest test of one's character is not what he does with success but what he makes of defeat. For generations, the Marine Corps has bred recruits with this type of bravado and instilled the courage in its warriors to move forward when those around them have faltered. In keeping with this ethos, Chandler stepped up to the challenge of jump school in the face of seemingly impossible odds. He jumped into the history books Dec. 10, becoming the only service member retained on active duty to graduate the course with a prosthetic leg.

"I think any obstacle in life can be overcome if you believe in yourself," Chandler exclaimed. "I hope this will make it easier for other people with prosthetics who want to go through (jump school) next time. As long as they won't be extra baggage, and they can pull their own weight and accomplish the mission. Hopefully, they won't have to put up with as much as I had to."

Chandler not only rose to the challenge but also exceeded even his own expectations when he was selected as the class' noncommissioned officer honor graduate.

"He captures the heart and soul of what it means to be a U.S. Marine," said Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commander, Marine Corps Detachment, Fort Benning. "I mean he exemplifies all of our core values--honor, courage, and commitment. This is a courageous young man. He fought to be retained on active duty and asked for a chance to come to airborne school as a reenlistment bonus."

Chandler faced many challenges and trials during the course of his airborne training revolution, but none so rigorous as the medical boards he faced to stay on active duty.

"After his injury and the loss of his leg, Chandler had to go before a Naval review. They had to make a decision as to whether he should be retained on active duty," Rice explained. "He was able to demonstrate to the Physical Evaluation Review Board that he was fit for return to full duty with no limitations. I think his success will open the door for the retention of service members who have lost a limb. It clearly demonstrates that given certain conditions, they can and should be left on active duty."

Chandler had to undergo another battery of physicals, paperwork and interviews before the airborne school would accept him. Yet, he was able to keep his sense of humor throughout the ordeal.

"Obviously, the school was going to ask questions because they were concerned about my safety and the safety of the other students," Chandler explained. "They wanted to know if I was even capable of completing the tasks they had for me. I figured I had an advantage. After all, I have one less ankle to break. Running everywhere was the hardest part for me. I don't really like to run. The other guys in my class really motivated me to keep going."

One classmate said Chandler's motivation came from within and spread to the people around him.

"I was in Kandahar with him when he had his accident, and this is the first time I've seen him since then," said Sgt. Ryan Scheucher, platoon sergeant, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. "If you'd known him before the accident, what he's doing right now would come as no surprise. Both in uniform and out, he's always just been one of those guys who just shuts up and gets the job done. If anything, since his accident I see a little more fire in his eyes. He gets up and he goes. He doesn't do anything to skyline himself or to showboat. If it's in the scope of his duty he just does it."

Chandler's enthusiasm and tireless commitment inspired many of his classmates and set the standard for them to follow.

"The first time I even realized he had a prosthetic leg was during one of our PT (physical training) sessions, and he was just smoking these little 18 year olds out there," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Mayer, Special Operations Command Fort Bragg, N.C. "He's an inspiration because you have all these perfectly healthy people who wash out and quit while he stays in and makes it. That's a real testament to his character."

Other jump school students credited Chandler with helping them make it through the course when they were struggling.

He motivated me because at first I felt kind of down and I didn't like the course because it was so hard, but then I saw that he was doing it with only one leg and that inspired me and let me know that I could do this," said Army Sgt. Fatima Hickman, Company B, 203rd Infantry, 4th Support Bn., here. "He could have done anything else but he chose to continue in the military and to go forth with what he wants to do. He's not letting his prosthetic leg stop him from being the Marine he wants to be."

And what did Chandler have to say to his detractors; to the people who said an amputee would never make it through the school.

"I don't have to say anything to people who said I couldn't make it," he retorted. "I just graduated."
-30-

Photos included with story:
Mentally preparing for his final jump, Sgt. Christopher Chandler grabs hold of his static line and awaits the go signal from his instructor .
Photo by: Cpl. Isaac Pacheco

Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commanding officerof Marine Detachment Fort Benning, pins on Sgt. Christopher Chandler's hard-earned jump wings during the drop zone graduation ceremony. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Ridlon


Text version of story is attached below:

SERGEANT CHANDLER.txt

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And... it has been done before--guess what?
By another Marine!

Re Donald Hamblen USMC

Editorial Reviews


From Publishers Weekly
During a parachute-training jump at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1962, Marine Sergeant Hamblen became entangled in high-tension wires; though he survived electrocution, Hamblen's left leg had to be amputated. Facing a medical discharge and the end of a career he loved, he resolved to overcome his handicap and rehabilitate himself back to active duty. The story of how he managed to pass the demanding Physical Readiness Test, which finishes with a punishing three-mile run, is searing. Returning to full-duty status in 1963, Hamblen became the first Marine to be sent into combat wearing a prosthesis. He served 30 consecutive months in Vietnam as a reconnaissance specialist and adviser, taking part in more than 80 missions, half of them inside North Vietnam. Hamblen retired in 1970 after 20 years of service, and is now a professional hunting guide. His involving autobiography, written with Norton ( Force Recon Diary , 1970), also includes a fine account of his experiences as a rifleman and sniper during the Korean War. An inspiring story of general interest. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


From Library Journal
In 1962, during a routine reconnaissance jump, Staff Sergeant Hamblen's parachute was blown off course and into high tension lines at Camp Pendleton. He never lost consciousness, and doctors were amazed that he survived. Five days later his leg was amputated below the knee. Hamblen immediately set out to prove to everyone that he could stay in the Marines. In 1965, he volunteered for service in Vietnam, training teams of Vietnamese for clandestine missions. He served for 30 months and was shot twice in North Vietnam. As far as is known, he is the only Marine to have gone into combat with a prosthesis; by his extraordinary example, he served as an inspiration to other badly wounded soldiers in hospitals. He demonstrated his courage, spirit, and self-determination to overcome all obstacles. Recommended for Vietnam War collections.
- Michael Coleman, Regional Lib. for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Montgomery, Ala.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


From Booklist
This is the plainly told but powerful story of an exceptionally determined human being. Sergeant Hamblen, who had joined the Marines in 1950, fought and was wounded in Korea before joining the elite reconnaissance units and qualifying as both scuba diver and parachutist. In 1962, he lost the lower part of his left leg to injuries sustained when his parachute became tangled in high-tension power lines. In spite of this, he requested and was allowed to return to full active duty with reconnaissance units, served more than two years in Vietnam, and has been a professional hunting guide since his retirement in 1970. Told with the assistance of the author of Force Recon Diary, 1969 and Force Recon Diary, 1970, Hamblen's story eloquently bespeaks the understated courage as well as the esprit de corps of the U.S. Marines. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


From Kirkus Reviews
Stand-up, anecdotal, typical reminiscences of one of the Corps' all-time tough guys. Putting his career in historical perspective, and writing with fellow retired Marine Norton, Hamblen--a career Marine enlisted man--relates his adventures during and after the Korean War and in Vietnam. As a Maine farm boy, the author knew rough living, so it wasn't surprising that he was more prepared for the hellish experience of boot camp than were many of his peers. As a PFC, Hamblen was sent to Korea as a replacement. The conflict had stagnated into trench warfare, but the author made his mark as a sniper and in other ways. His memoirs of Korea are detailed, and, here, he gives what's arguably the most underpublicized war in American history some varnish. Several years later, looking for new challenges, Hamblen joined the elite force recon--the Marine Corps equivalent of the SEALs and the Green Berets--but, in 1962, he parachuted on to some high-tension power lines and lost his left leg. How Hamblen responded to this accident makes his book's title crystal clear: Recovering, he not only remained in the service but was among four Marines who were accepted into SOG (the supersecret Vietnam War Studies and Observation Group). SOG teams typically operated behind enemy lines all over Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, even China), kidnapping NVA officers, conducting sabotage raids, and gathering intelligence. Unfortunately, this portion of the author's memoir cries out for far greater detail: Hamblen glosses over Vietnam in 60 pages. A mere hint of a fascinating life. But Hamblen refuses to name the names of guys who back-stabbed him, and his recounting lacks the smell of cordite, the sound of guns, the cries of the dying and wounded. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Ingram
A retired Marine tells of being the only American soldier who ever went into combat wearing an artificial limb and his experiences on the battlefields of Vietnam. Reprint. PW


Inside Flap Copy
"Searing . . . An inspiring story." Publishers Weekly.
On September 21, 1962, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Donald N. Hamblen's life changed forever. During a routine parachute jump, Hamblen suffered injuries that cost him his leg. With most people, this would be the end of the story. But for this tough marine, it was only the beginning. An amazing story of courage, spirit, and self-determination . . . of a marine who fought the toughest battle of all -- and won.


Book Description
"Searing . . . An inspiring story." Publishers Weekly.

On September 21, 1962, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Donald N. Hamblen's life changed forever. During a routine parachute jump, Hamblen suffered injuries that cost him his leg. With most people, this would be the end of the story. But for this tough marine, it was only the beginning. An amazing story of courage, spirit, and self-determination . . . of a marine who fought the toughest battle of all -- and won.

READER REVIEWS...

1-6 of 6
Spotlight Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

More Spies, September 21, 2000
Reviewer: ra doyle (see more about me) from South Carolina
Once again we have the real heroes, all deep behind the enemy lines. I guess myself and my Sergeant Major buddy here in Beaufort were the only mud Marines in Vietnam as everyone else was in recon or sog. Hamblen states that all the 62 "missions" ( behind the lines- whereever that was)are no longer classified and that is why he is talking about them. Well Major Norton, just produce the evidence and you can prove your case and stop slamming your questioners. I find it rather strange that all the Vietnamese we sent undercover into North Vietnam were captured and executed yet a one legged caucasian came and went 62 times without a hitch. How about a book about that? RA Doyle USMC retired.

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Customer Reviews



0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

rayjoy@ipa.net, July 3, 2000
Reviewer: roadrunner6 (see more about me) from De Queen, Ar. United States
A great book about a courageous man. I had to force myself to put the book down in order to get some sleep at night. As with all his other books Bruce did a very good job of getting the true picture of this man's life and courage. Roadrunner 6 out

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

rayjoy@ipa.net, July 3, 2000
Reviewer: roadrunner6 (see more about me) from De Queen, Ar. United States
To me this book is an outstanding, reader's book. It kept me glued to 1st Sgt Hamblen's exploits all through the book. I had to force myself to put it down so I could get some sleep at night. But then I expected no less since Bruce Norton was involved in writting this book.

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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Let The Truth Be known!, February 12, 2000
Reviewer: Victor Karkos from North Carolina
I was in Vietnam with Don Hamblen, from 1966 - 1967. His story, One Tougfh Marine, is totally accurate and factual. B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley never spoke to Hamblen when they were writing their book, and LtGen. B. Trainor was never Don Hamblen's CO. In fact, Trainor has never met Don Hamblen, ever. Pat Carothers was there, but he was considered by many of us to be a poor excuse for an officer. He wrote himself up for several personal awards (a Silver Star and a Purple Heart) and the troops despised him for being a one-way phony. When people write books they should have credibility and KNOW what they are writing about. None of these four bums could carry Don Hamblen's pack across the street. Hamblen is genuine, they are not. Burkett and Whitley have no credibility after "ghost writing" their work. Veteran's should know the truth about these four bums. In my opinion, Hamblen has more class than to lower himself to their level.

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Donald Hamblen certainly appears to be the ideal Marine!, March 5, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from Columbia, South Carolina
Starting out in his rural home in Maine, in the thirties, Sgt Hamblen tells his extraordinary story in a matter of fact way. I do not think Sgt. Hamben's purpose was to boast when he wrote this book, but rather to tell the truth about what the Marine Corps is all about- Honor, Courage, Commitment- just like the poster says. Sgt. Hamblen is a man that was lucky enough to fall in love with his career and he had the courage enough to fight for it when it apeared to be in danger. I think this individual would be a fine role model for any of today's youth and for the youth of many generations too come.

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This is the best military Bio that I have read ever, December 3, 1998
Reviewer: An Amazon.com Customer
About a very Modivated Marine who lost his leg in a parachuting accident when he hit two electrical. It would have killed any normal person but he was in such good shape that it only burned him really bad to the point that doctors had to amputate his left leg under the knee. He was determaned to return to activ duty and it took more strong will to do this than most people would do to survive. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

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1-6 of 6

The above from Amazon.com
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ADDENDUM...
ADDENDUM...

The Best Revenge

December 23, 2003
by Tom Kovach

On 16 December 2001, while on a dangerous assignment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a young Marine named Christopher Chandler stepped on a land mine and lost the lower portion of his left leg. He was on a detail with an explosives ordinance disposal (EOD) unit. In civilian lingo, EOD guys are the “bomb squad”.

Almost exactly two years later, on the 10th of this month, now-Sergeant Chandler got his revenge — by “living well”, as the saying goes.

Chandler’s version of living well, however, also happened to make history. You see, Chris got his revenge by becoming the first military member in American history to be awarded Airborne wings while wearing a prosthetic limb.

Jumping out of the C-130 at Fort Benning was the end of a lengthy battle — against his injury, and against the Physical Evaluation Review Board. He was rated by the PERB as fit to return to full duty, “with no limitations”. Although that is quite a feat for anyone that has lost a limb — even if one’s duty is a sit-down job in a civilian office — it is a daunting task for a Marine. It means that, among other things, Chandler has demonstrated his ability to run at least three miles within strict time limits, and perform other strenuous physical challenges. Airborne School is full of physical challenges.

Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commanding officer of Marine Detachment Fort Benning, pins on Sgt. Christopher Chandler's jump wings during the drop zone graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Ridlon)

The popular television show JAG has a character, Lt. Bud Roberts, who also lost a lower leg in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan and returned to active duty. But, Roberts is fictional, he is a lawyer, and the show has mentioned that he has duty restrictions. Chandler is real, he is a Marine, his duty in the Corps is hazardous, and he has no restrictions. The TV show does give a small glimpse, however, into the challenges of a life such as Chandler’s. Those challenges are faced with gusto, as described by fellow graduates at Fort Benning. They described his attitude as an inspiration. In a Marine Corps public affairs interview, Chandler explained the examination given to him by the staff before being allowed to enter Airborne training. "They wanted to know if I was even capable of completing the tasks they had for me. I figured I had an advantage. After all, I have one less ankle to break.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Mayer, from US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at Fort Bragg, NC, said, “He's an inspiration because you have all these perfectly healthy people who wash out and quit while he stays in and makes it. That's a real testament to his character.”

“I was in Kandahar with him when he had his accident, and this is the first time I've seen him since then,” said Sgt. Ryan Scheucher, platoon sergeant, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “If you'd known him before the accident, what he's doing right now would come as no surprise. Both in uniform and out, he's always just been one of those guys who just shuts up and gets the job done. If anything, since his accident I see a little more fire in his eyes.”

Many people have been retained on active duty with prosthetics (I met one when I was in the orthopedic ward at Walter Reed). Some people even continue to jump with prosthetics. But, Chandler is the first person to go into the school with an artificial leg and complete the rigorous training. “I think any obstacle in life can be overcome if you believe in yourself," Chandler explained. "I hope this will make it easier for other people with prosthetics who want to go through [jump school] next time. As long as they won't be extra baggage, and they can pull their own weight and accomplish the mission. Hopefully, they won't have to put up with as much as I had to.”

This quote from Chandler gave rise to the title of this article. “I don't have to say anything to people who said I couldn't make it. I just graduated.” There is a parallel Chinese proverb that says, “The man who says that a task is impossible should get out of the way of the man doing it.”

And now, the Marines have one more EOD technician ready to jump in anywhere and dismantle terrorists ... and their bombs. That would be a continuation of Chandler’s version of “the best revenge”.

Tom Kovach
DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE IN THE FORUM! Tom Kovach is a free-lance writer, proud father of a teenage daughter, certified paralegal, former talk-radio host, and a former USAF Blue Beret. Tom led a counter-terrorist team overseas, and was on a protection detail for President Reagan. He lives in Nashville, and has written a “9-11” memorial song.

http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/k/kovach/03/kovach122303.htm

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