Veteran: Charlie Hall
Writer: Robert Chambers
Artist: Melinda Hoffman
Show: Vol. 2
“I am the master of my own Destiny. I am the Captain of my soul.” William Ernest Henley
A real man (or woman) doesn’t rely on the world to define them, but rather they define themselves and, in time, the world. This is the mark of a legacy, the defining aspect of an actualized person. They find and refine themselves through trial and error, to affect the change most needed in their bubble of influence. It isn’t about the collection of superfluous money,
stagnant power, or lowhanging morality. It is with action toward the end goal, the nobility of which shines through long after we have shuffled off our mortal coil and traveled into that undiscovered country. For those that can grasp this, it’s not simply worth living for, it’s worth dying for. Few and far between are those that attempt it. Even fewer are those that achieve it.
Charlie Hall was born into a family of intellectuals, of people whose standard was that of benevolence and hard work, his uncle, an exArmy Ranger, inspiring him toward civil engineering in a way that only a master of their craft could. Knowing that he also wanted to be in the military, he joined the National Guard at seventeen, drilling with them while still in high school. But something didn’t sit right with him there. Some strange disconnect between his ideals and where he was heading. It may not have been the branch, as much as the people he was around, but regardless, the end result was a hesitance to begin as an enlisted servicemember, rather than an officer.
As though placed there by seraphim, a card was found in his mailbox, sent to both himself and a friend, inviting both to attend West Point, a prestigious college in New York whose founding principles focus on duty, honor, and country. His friend ended the idea with a prompt “Hell no!” But Charlie was different. He was excited at the opportunity, humbled by the offer, and yes, intimidated by the prospects. But this sort of dynamic is the perfect example of someone defining a moment, or being defined by it. This is the gauntlet laid before those who have the courage to make their mark. This is where Charlie began to make his.
Two years into his stint at West Point, Charlie reconnected with his future wife, another student whose focus was on education and whose father was, at the time, a Marine colonel working at the Pentagon. His father had known hers, both growing up together in the same small town. These relationships would later shape the direction of his life, especially given how much he was ragged for not joining the Marine Corps. But he’d already experienced mouthbreathing knuckledraggers while he was with the National Guard and didn’t want to go further down that rabbit hole by being around knuckledragging psychopaths wielding hate like narcissists wield opinions. Basically, the charm of the Marine Corps hadn’t quite set in.
Once he graduated, he spent two years at Fort Riley, Kansas, as a platoon commander with a combat engineer battalion as a 2nd. Lieutenant. He would wind up spending several months in the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, running his battalion’s Engineer Reconnaissance Team. This was a huge step toward doing what he had wanted, but the consistent doubt of his decision to avoid the Marine Corps began to weigh heavily on him, the shadow of his fatherinlaw looming like a thunderstorm over the meadow in which Charlie had found himself. Being a man who valued selfworth, he was convinced to do a lateral move from his originally chosen military branch to the one filled with Jarheads.
Almost overnight, Charlie found himself at basic training in Quantico, his 7monthpregnant wife cheering him on from a distance. After graduating, the Marine Corps did what the Marine Corps does, which is whatever it wants to do. Where the Army wanted him as an engineer, given that that was his chosen vocation, he instead found himself as a supply officer, a victim of the branch’s “Quality Spread.” This basically meant pairing intelligentsia with those who were… unlucky at thinking. Not what he wanted. Not where he thought he belonged. Luckily, he was attached to what he thought was a “cool unit,” 2nd Recon Battalion, a timehonored group committed to ground and amphibious reconnaissance, surveillance, and other operations.
He was deployed to Iraq from 20042005, where he was part of the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. While there, he helped control the southeastern area of operations roughly thirty miles outside the walls of Fallujah itself. However, he was more than just a supply officer. When the time came for him to step up, he didn’t hesitate, using his skills to become a task force engineering officer as a first lieutenant. Through taking an active role toward his own destiny, he found himself in the role he had chosen, in spite of the chaotic nature of war.
In 2006, after his return, he chose another path, one that further displayed his strength of character when it came to Will versus Fate. He had left the war to return to a family, a son and daughter he had only watched grow up in small, invaluable clumps of time, and wife that had become all too familiar with deployment. Her father was constantly overseas and her brother had been injured in Iraq. So Charlie wanted to care for and protect his legacy, deciding to take a job as an inactive reservist helping with an organization called Marine for Life, which aided Marines getting jobs once the left the Corps. And, given that he was a reservist, he was given the opportunity to continue his work in community minded setting, working as a project manager for a construction company.
However, when the recession hit, and given that he was a low man on the totem pole, he feared the possibility of a potential layoff. He wasn’t working as an engineer, wasn’t given the freedom to grow, or the security necessary to raise a family. Plus, working in a cubicle didn’t sit well with him. So he approached the Marine Corps once more, asking if they had something where he could stay in Greenville, but do the most good he could as an active reservist. From there, they sent him to be a part of the Wounded Warrior Regiment, where he was issued a Polo shirt, a Blackberry, gas mileage, and a direction: Help those war fighters who have returned from hell, their bodies crippled by explosions and bullets, their minds rended by war’s nature. This would be a turning point for Charlie.
He’d known suffering. He’d seen it in Iraq firsthand. But nothing brought home the realization of just how horrific this world can be like speaking with these people on a personal level. It wasn’t simply their stories of violence, of IEDs, death, and mutilation, but the sexual abuse that was so much more rampant than he had imagined. Women were taken advantage of by men with higher rank, laid low by inexperience, expectation, and fear. And so were several men that also served, raped by their own men and left emotionally dead, scoured of their masculinity and faith in their fellow man.
Charlie didn’t know exactly how to react to that. There he was, sitting in a Starbucks or living room, a combat veteran too humble to know he could help, too selfconscious to realize that he didn’t need to be in the infantry to be of benefit. He doubted himself. He wasn’t in the infantry, hadn’t followed through with what so many people think it means to be a man in the military, that being the killing of another person. It’s not that he held those same beliefs, but he knew so many of us did. Most still do.
And so he would sit there, listening patiently as they poured their worst nightmare, a living nightmare, out before him, searching for answers that might make their world more liveable. Maybe find avenues where they could wrap their head around what had happened to them and still have the ability to look forward to the future, to believe hope was justified and that they deserved better than they’d been given. That the tragedy of their circumstance, especially given the impressionable age at which they had experienced these tragedies, did not need to shape their perspective of the rest of their lives. That they were worth the trouble of existing.
Even those that had become monsters had a seat in front of him. Men that kept a running tab of the dogs they killed for fun or the scalps they cut off their enemies or the gut laughter they bellowed as they watched kids die. He couldn’t fully grasp where they were coming from or why they followed through with the horrors that they were so willing to speak of. The war had skipped over him in that sense, a product of his initial move to be an engineer, rather than an infantryman. He’d plotted his course years before. He wasn’t a killer. But then again, he didn’t have to be. Through his Christian upbringing, he felt that everyone deserves a second chance.
Over the span of several years, he worked with over four hundred veterans, unable to turn any Marine away that came to him in need. Marines injured in training accidents, who got cancer, contracted a strange disease in boot camp, or simply had a troubling childhood that exacerbated the issues they were now going through, all were greeted with the arm-around-the -shoulder or kick-in-the-ass that they needed to overcome what trials laid before them. This was a proving ground for the nonprofit he eventually started, where the holistic approach he had cultivated became a catchall for veterans who don’t feel they have a place to turn. Since the inception of Upstate Warrior Solution, he has helped more than two thousand veterans find solace where there was once only despair.
He has achieved what few even have the audacity to attempt. He has acted toward a noble, impactful goal that will outlast him long after he’s left this world. It isn’t about using money to put a bandaid on the problem, or making a name for himself, or any other motive that might make him suspect. Through a strength of character, he’s bettered the world around him in a way that can only be defined as tremendous and through the journey of his own self-actualization.
This is a testament to what a person can do if they make their own path. This is the legacy of Charlie Hall.