COLUMBUS, Miss. – Chad Oliver, senior speech-language pathology major at Mississippi University for Women, is one of million veterans being remembered as part of this year’s Veterans Day holiday.
Oliver, who is from Sulligent, Ala., served in the active Army for seven years as a combat engineer in the 1st Infantry Division and was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany. He exited the Army in 2008 as a sergeant.
The 31-year-old Oliver chose to join the military Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had always thought about joining but I was enrolled in college and thought my future lay in that direction until I saw the news that day. I called a recruiter and asked him to sign me up for the next bus leaving,” he said.
A lot has transpired in his life since that day, including his photo and two other soldiers being on the cover of the Nov. 8, 2004, Newsweek.
Oliver explains that in 2004, the 1st Infantry Division decided to re-invade the city of Samarra to retake it from the insurgents that had overrun it and were threatening the security of the whole province.
He was a part of Operation Baton Rouge, which had a freelance war photographer embedded with them who went door to door with them as they cleared every house in the city.
“We had just destroyed a cache of weapons and munitions when he took a photo of us walking out of what was left of the house we had just destroyed. It wasn't until a few months later did we learn that he had sold the photo to multiple news outlets and magazines including Newsweek.”
Oliver was first deployed in 2002 to Kosovo to conduct de-mining operations by clearing “by hand" minefields left over from the previous war. Oliver later deployed to Iraq in in 2004 until 2005 and again in 2006 until late 2007. He served all of the country of Iraq conducting counter insurgency operations with the Big Red One in Samarra, Tikrit, and Balad, Iraq. Later he was a squad leader in Ramadi, Iraq, in the Al Anbar province. Between 2003 and 2007, he spent a total of 39 months in Iraq.
He was awarded many medals for his service and dedication to the Army.
“I was awarded multiple commendations for my leadership in and outside of the war zone and I was also awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in an IED attack two weeks before my final tour was to end.”
Oliver’s attention is now turned toward his family, his wife Tracie of seven years, and their children, 6-year-old twins Gavin and Kaleb, and 5-year-old Austin.
He’s also focused on earning his master’s degree from MUW’s speech-language pathology program.
“From the faculty to the students, everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand. The faculty and staff at the Speech and Hearing Center have really helped me get the most out of my time here by not preparing me for tests, but by preparing me and the other students for practicing in our major,” he said.
Oliver plans to use his education to serve the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home injured suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries as he did.
“I believe that even though I am no longer in the service, I can still serve my country by serving those who have and continue to do so.”
As others remember Veterans Day, Oliver wants them to think about soldiers who are going into the line of fire and risking their lives.
“They don't do it for money or power. They do it because they believe that their sacrifice will ensure that freedom never fades from the earth and that as long as they bleed to keep the stripes red, America will be the land of the free because they are brave.”
He added, “Freedom isn't free and no piece of paper gave us the rights we have. It was a price paid in blood by men and women we shall never forget. The best way to honor a veteran--enjoy your freedoms and live free.”
MUW currently has 53 veterans who are enrolled as students, according to the registrar office.
Nov. 12, 2012
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins