By Paul E. Gable
(Ed. Note – Below is an interview with Chris Bain, this year’s Wounded Warrior of the Year. It was conducted while Bain was participating in the First Annual Tee It Up With the Heroes golf outing and fundraiser in Shelbyville, Indiana.)
One might have expected that Chris Bain would serve in the military.
He was after all born at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in southern California and every male in his family had served in one branch of the military or another.
Obviously, he was going to enter the military, but the question remained — what branch.
“My dad was a Marine. My dad educated me and said don’t be a Marine just because I am a Marine and to pick the branch I wanted. I researched the Army and the Marines,” said Bain, who lives in Pennsylvania and was in Shelby County earlier this month as part of Indiana Grand Racing and Casino’s Salute to Our Armed Forces presentation, along with Helping Hands For Freedom.
“I had both the Army and Marines recruiters sitting there and I asked them both one question that helped me make my decision. I asked them if I didn’t like my career choice, could I change it. The Marines recruiter said no. The Army recruiter said I could put in a request and I liked his answer and decided to go with the Army. I tell people all the time when I was born, I was one of the few and the proud and when it came time for me to serve, I wanted to be all I could be,” Bain said.
In 1992, Bain enlisted in the Army and was sent to Somalia.
“I was there during Black Hawk Down. I was so young, so naive and a private. It was surreal and kind of like make believe. Here I am in a new country with a gun and I’m told to make people’s lives better. As I got older, I realized I changed people’s lives and made a difference. That is why I signed up,” Bain said.
From Somalia, he spent six months in Egypt, where he shot down a helicopter that was hijacked by insurgents aiming to assassinate the Egyptian president at the time.
However, his entire military career and life changed in Iraq in 2004 when Bain, who was a Staff Sgt., was ambushed on Aug. 8 in Taji.
After spending the entire day with his twin brother, Bain got the green light to go on a raid in Taji.
“We jumped in and got ambushed. My interpreter set me up. The puff of smoke went up and we got hit with mortars from all over. I got my guys under cover and ran back to where we were set up. I got shot in the arm, elbow, other places and then I got the million dollar shot. If you’ve seen ‘Forrest Gump,’ you know what I’m talking about – shot in the buttocks. I kept going in and out, and bled out on the battle field. Two other interpreters did a blood transfusion, and, thankfully, my body didn’t reject it. If it wasn’t for those two and my guys, I wouldn’t be here today,” Bain said.
Bain lost four-and-a-half pints of blood and was dead on the battlefield for minutes. He underwent 18 surgeries and spent three-and-a-half years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was in Ward 57, which was known as “the amputee ward.”
“Being at Walter Reed was tough. I had never gone to a hospital, had never broken a bone or seen a doctor in my life and here I am and I am here for three-and-a-half years. I’d sit there and watch the guys in my room. We were in Ward 57, the famous ward from Iraq, and there were three of us in there who would tease each other, undergo surgeries together and talk about how we were going to get out,” Bain said.
Doctors told Bain he would be a triple amputee, but he declined, telling doctors to “do their job.”
He was lucky, but others were not and one fellow soldier’s luck changed Bain forever, prompting him to continue to stand up for his fellow soldiers in uniform.
“There was this guy that we would go into surgeries together and I’d come out better than he would. One day we are done with surgery and these guys in suits who were not military walk in, wanting him to sign papers. I got out of my bed and they closed the sheet and told me to mind my business. I got back up and they pushed me back. I got up again and saw one of the guys had his hand and forced him to sign a piece of paper. I screamed for a nurse, but it was too late. They tried to make him sign his benefits away. That day changed my life forever. I sat there thinking how can you do that, how can you sleep with yourself at night doing that to men and women who made a sacrifice for you. It was at that point that I decided I would do whatever it took to help my brothers and sisters in uniform. I made it a point to say I would never walk past a veteran without doing something,” said Bain, who was honored this year as the Wounded Warrior of the Year by Helping Hands For Freedom and received a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his heroism.
Since that day, Bain has spent time traveling across the country raising awareness for PTSD and the tragic struggles veterans endure once they return home.
“I have an understanding that He spared my life because He knows I’d never let anyone hurt my brothers and sisters. I have a voice that will be heard,” Bain said.
He knows the struggles first hand. As he admits he endured a “tough stretch” with his wife and two daughters dealing with returning from war with limited use of his hands due to surgeries.
“My girls were little when I was injured and now they are 16 and 14. The oldest wants to know why dad’s always home and she doesn’t understand why I need help sometimes with skills as simple as buttoning my shirt. My wife is my caregiver, and I am blessed to have such a beautiful family. My wife is my rock and savior. She pushes me to be better and she makes me stronger. Look, I’m blessed. I have my family and my health. Others are not as fortunate,” Bain said.
Regardless of where he has to fly or what area code the phone call comes from, Bain vows he will be there to help those less fortunate.
“Every time I see someone in uniform, I just want to salute it and hug them. I respect the uniform. The American flag is me. Every time I see the stars and stripes, I see faces. The red stripe is the blood we’ve shed. The white is the purity and the blue is our loyalty. I’ll never stop helping my brothers and sisters and fighting those who aim to hurt them,” Bain said.
(Paul Gable is a graduate of Loris High School and Newberry College. He is the editor of The Shelbyville News. Gable was one of the organizers of Tee It Up With the Heroes. Follow Gable on Twitter @PaulGableTSN.)