Courtesy of Chad Elliott
When Chad Elliott, a fourth-year in criminology, received an injury that eventually earned him a Purple Heart while fighting in the Iraq War, he did not receive pain medication.
Elliott said that in 2000, before enduring 145-degree temperatures, open gunfire, improvised explosive devices, nightmares and lifelong injuries from combat, he decided to join the Army.
In 2004, he was sent on a year-long Iraq tour. The mission that earned him a Purple Heart that year happened to be on his dad’s birthday, July 18.
Elliott’s unit was patrolling the Baghdad roads when an IED hit them at about 2:30 a.m. They had stopped for a restroom and cigarette break.
He said he remembered thinking it was a pretty cool place to stop before being blown about 10 feet in the air.
“I remember talking to my squad and another squad, we were standing around telling jokes,” he said. “Next thing I know, I’m picking myself up off the ground.”
Adrenaline forced him right back up. He said he heard what sounded like the distant voice of his friend yelling, “I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m hit!”
Elliott said he searched for the voice through the thick cloud of smoke and dust, but realized his friend wasn’t as far from him as he had thought.
“I can’t see him, and then I look down by my feet and here he’s lying right beside me,” Elliott said. “It sounded like he was 50 feet away because my eardrums were ruptured. I remember he had a grimacing look on his face.”
Immediately after ensuring his fellow soldier’s safety, Elliott drove their truck back to base, still uncertain what exactly had happened. He said his face was burning from pieces of shrapnel stuck in his skin, which he said looked like “a really bad case of acne.”
Elliott said the hot metal had to be plucked from his face with tweezers, and he wasn’t given pain medication.
“You just get used to it,” Elliott said.
Two hours later, with a bandaged face and loss of hearing, Elliott went back to the scene to search for the hole where the IED had been buried.
But Elliott said he wasn’t scared to return to scene.
“I was fine. I had this belief that if it was my time to go, it was my time to go,” he said. “I wasn’t going to put myself or my soldiers in jeopardy by walking around like something was going to happen to me. We were standing outside of our trucks 15 feet away from a buried IED. I’m extremely lucky, the way I look at it.”
Elliott said he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, tinnitus and traumatic brain injury. His wife, Tarez Elliot, said he is always on high alert, can’t be around big crowds and sometimes has nightmares.
“Loud noises can really have a negative effect on him because it brings back traumatic memories,” she said. “I just have to realize that he can’t help it.”
A representative from the Franklin County Veterans Service Commission said veterans suffering from PTSD might require intensive in-patient programs to aid in their transition back to civilian life.
“I still think about Iraq every day, but I used to dwell on it,” Chad Elliott said. “I don’t know if you grow out of it or you just get used to it. When I met my wife, I stopped drinking as much as I was. I’m happy now.”