In celebration of Veterans Day, below is from Chad Schroeder, a United States Marine Corps veteran and Merfish United’s Outside Sales Representative in Florida.
We will be recognizing our team’s veterans throughout the week. Check back for more!
My name is Chad Schroeder and I am the Merfish United Outside Sales Representative for the state of Florida. I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1990-1994.
In 1989, after graduating High School with Honors, I was looking for a purpose in life. I had been working and attending college and playing basketball at Pasco Hernando Community College in Florida. Life was good. My parents had worked very hard to provide for me, including a good home life, vacations and more, but we weren’t considered wealthy.
One day, a high school friend of mine, Tony Bolden, came home to visit. He was now a Marine, having just graduated boot camp at Parris Island, SC. During conversation, he asked about me joining. I thought for a minute, and decided, “why not?” Shortly after, I met with a recruiter and found myself in basic training on February 4th, 1990.
After three months of intense, stressful training, it was finally my day to walk the Parade deck in my Dress Blues, receive my Eagle, Globe and Anchor and Earn the title of Unites States Marine. It was the proudest moment of my life (at least until my kids were born, but it’s still up there!). After a ten day leave, I was sent to Fort Sill, OK where I spent months training to become an Artillery Man.
My job in the Marines was Fire Direction Control (FDC) and I was attached to an artillery unit. I controlled the Gun Line, directing them on how high, in what direction and when to pull the trigger. My next duty station and first home base became Camp Lejeune, NC.
In October of 1990, just before the Holidays, our First Sergeant called for an immediate mandatory formation and informed us that we had received orders. We would be leaving for Saudi Arabia within a month. After a few days leave at home with my family, I was back in North Carolina and boarding a plane. Nineteen hours later, we landed on the other side of the world. It was December 3rd, 1990.
We spent a month positioning, inching closer to Kuwait and getting ready for the unknown. Desert Shield Started had started in August and was now in full swing. We heard a constant stream of air power overhead and knew strategic bombing wasn’t far in front of us.
By this time Saddam Hussein had ordered his army to light the oil fields they held on fire. At one point, at one o’clock in the middle of the afternoon, is was so dark from the burning oil and smoke that you needed flashlight to see in front of you. We kept moving closer to enemy lines, moving in the pitch black across rigorous desert terrain.
It was now January 13th, 1991 and my nineteenth birthday. I thought, “is today the day that all of our training, the sacrifices we made up to this point, was going to put into play?”
One night, just before midnight, a formation was called. Our senior officers were there as usual, but this time a chaplain was with them. Our Captain announced that it was time. He said, and I’ll never forget these words, “men, in three hours at O-three-hundred-hours, while the enemy is sleeping, we will blow the berm and enter into enemy territory.” He continued, “they will be trying to kill us and some of us will not make it back.” The chaplain prayed with us and gave us something like last rites. Those next three hours were quiet and almost peaceful, even with constant bombings from our Air Force only a few thousand yards in front of us on the other side of the berm.
The clock struck 0300 hours and the combat engineers blew up the berm that separated us from enemy territory. We entered Kuwait on February 17th, 1991 and Operation Desert Storm began.
I wasn’t a scared nineteen-year-old anymore, I was a Marine, a combat warrior and it was time to shine. After only two hours, Saddam launched SCUD missiles at us which were mixed with Mustard Gas and nerve agents. We had to immediately deploy our Mop Level 5 Gear, which covered us from head to toe and we stayed in it for nine hours before we got the all-clear.
While advancing, we took our first Prisoner of War, an Iraqi soldier who was hiding in a fighting hole he had dug in the desert. He was the first of 300 POW’s we would take, eventually getting to the point where we stopped checking them. We had them get behind us and keep walking where they would be safe. We moved so fast into Kuwait that we didn’t have time for all the Iraqi’s that were surrendering to us.
While driving with other Humvees, mine ran over a land mine while passing another. It blew the front right tire off, disabling that vehicle for good. We found ourselves in the middle of a mine field without a way to drive out. While there were some minor injuries from the blast, all we had lost was a vehicle. We spent that night in our broken Humvee, not being able to step out to go to the bathroom. We held our position, taking fire from the ground and SCUD Missiles from above.
At dawn we were able to see enough to clear the mine field with probe rods (lower ranking Marines got this honor… me and my friends). We cleared the way and continued to Kuwait. After other close calls and sleepless nights, coalition forces led by the United States had liberated Kuwait in 42 days. A couple months later we rotated home. It was May of 1991, and we came back to the U.S. to a Hero’s Welcome.
After Desert Storm we had some down time before we got orders sending us to Okinawa, Japan for 6 months. These were some of the best times I had in the Marine Corps; I was team captain and quarterback of the football team, captain of the volleyball team, and won a long drive competition on a drive of 327 yards on a set of wood-headed rental clubs.
We had several typhoons hit the island while were there, the largest being a Category 5. It came in directly over the island and our barracks. We went out briefly and stood in the eye of the storm, which was like being in the center of a washing machine without getting wet. You couldn’t even feel the massive circulation around you.
Returning home from Japan for a short while, we were next sent to 29 Palms, CA for two months of desert training (I suggested just sending new Marines, as I has seen enough desert for a lifetime by this point!). While there, we played at the famous La Quinta Golf Course that used to host the Skins Game for top PGA players. After that we returned to North Carolina, where we got new orders; this time we were going on a cruise (not an all-inclusive with a pool, an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean). We were sailing back to the other end of the world.
During the cruise, we stopped for refueling and resupply every two weeks. We docked in Spain, Italy, Africa, Israel, Greece and more. This would be my final deployment and last of three trips around the world. I visited seventeen different countries, deployed for six months during wartime, received numerous medals and returned home safely after four years in the Marines.
There were some very intense times, and I put my life on the line to defend freedom, liberty and the flag of the United States of America. Some of the questions I get asked the most is, “was it worth it and would you do it again?” My answer is, “hell yes, to both,” without blinking an eye.
For the people of this great country that hate and also hate it, burn it’s flag, lose friendships over politics or don’t appreciate what you have here, I say this; wait until someday when you don’t have those rights, liberties, and freedoms, find yourself in a lawless country, or even worse having to live by the rules of a dictator, then you will see what I saw in Operation Desert Storm, which is life at its worst.
I have seen the word. We live in an amazing country, no matter who is President, what the economy is doing or where you’re at in your personal life. I was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1994. Now I’m with another great organization, Merfish United, and I thank God every day for the opportunities I have in this country.
God Bless the USA!