Chad W. Powell, USMC
KIA: Fallujah, Iraq 23 June 2005
article by Dan Chason
Every father dreads the day that his daughter finds the man of her dreams and moves on with her life. I am and was no different. My daughter, Danielle is an exceptional woman. To understand how exceptional, I will divulge some things that have been withheld for many years.
I liked Chad Powell from the first time I met him. He was my son’s best friend and lived in close proximity to my home in West Monroe. Chad and my son Andy were two peas in a pod. Whether it was hunting or fishing, these two guys spent many an hour chasing critters. Chad soon took to filming our show as that was what Andy was doing. He learned to operate a camera and soon joined us on road trips to places like Lake Fork. I remember one summer where they were feeling their oats. Both of them were about 16 years old and decided that they were big enough to take off in a bass boat and trail me and my fishing partner on a day’s venture. We fished and were having a blast catching those big Lake Fork bass. My partner and I left them in a cove and after a couple of hours of not seeing them, we returned to see Andy on the front of the bass boat, arms crossed and apparently not very happy. Chad was sitting in the driver’s seat and the boat was going in circles. The boys had found a good stump and had high-centered the 20 ft. Skeeter on it. After much ragging and giving them a hard time, we assisted them in getting loose. Then there was a game they called “catfish slopping.” Our neighbor, Dr. Jay Weiss had a pond that had some old cagey channel catfish that would not bite. The only way to get them to bite was to use an ultralight with a cricket. Problem is that they would break your line. Chad and Andy figured out that if you waded into the pond and followed the fish, you could shorten the distance and force the fish to the bank where he could be caught. Imagine my laughter when I saw these two young men, muddy from head to toe, swimming in a pond that a beaver would pass up, just to catch a big fish.
They were like that at everything. But things changed as my young daughter began to have a look in her eye that I didn’t like. She had a big crush on Chad and was ignored for the most part as she was two years his junior. But after time, they began to date, and I feared that the relationship was going too fast and too serious, but I was fairly helpless to stop it. As nature overtook good judgment, I was informed by my daughter that she was pregnant. We decided that not one second of our lives as father and daughter would be spent in regret. She chose on her own to volunteer to talk to teenagers about the dangers of dating and the inevitable should partners decide to be intimate without proper restraints. She graduated high school and never once held her head down. Hopelessly and unconditionally, we both fell in love with that unborn child who became my first grandson, Elijah.
Chad was very much affected by 9/11. I remember how this young man was emotionally connected to the fact that our country could be attacked by a foreign entity. Without hesitation and following the lead of his father and grandfather, Chad enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. It was a joint decision but this young man did it out of a sense of duty for his country and out of a desire to provide for his family while pursuing his dream of being a Marine. That clicked on with deployments to Haiti and Afghanistan when he returned to West Monroe for Christmas of 2004.
Chad absolutely loved to deer hunt. When he, Danielle and Elijah arrived at my home, it was a joyous occasion. He was 8 months from discharge and plans were made, a job was found and we even picked out a house for the new family. Life was good. I was very ill that Christmas with a bout of pneumonia and had no desire to go hunting. I was sick. But Chad was persistent and with the nudging of my daughter, we spent a couple of days hunting. Well, he hunted, and I coughed a lot. First, we went to my brother-in-law’s place, where Chad and I sat in the same 25 foot tower stand. The deer cooperated and they were active. The next morning we went to a honey hole of mine, and I put him in the “meat stand” which was my favorite. It overlooked a slough and had a natural draw on both sides of the stand. Chad was so excited as he saw 8 deer. He decided not to shoot as he was waiting on a “real big one”. That would be the last time I hunted with Chad. After the hunt, he decided to drop a bomb on me. “Pop,” he said, “I’ve got another deployment. I am being sent to Fallujah, Iraq.” I was mad at first, sad afterwards as I had heard the horror stories from that region. Chad and I worked on police procedures, breaking into doors, sweeping rooms and how to cover your partner. This made me feel better to at least share what I knew about tactics from my training in hopes it would help him. What I didn’t prepare for was the call at 4 a.m. on June 23, 2005.
There is nothing like trying to find an airplane out of Monroe, Louisiana at 4 a.m. in the morning, so you can get to your daughter at Camp LeJuene, North Carolina. Long and short of it was that my daughter made me more proud of her than I have ever been in my life during that horrible time. Not only did she carry herself like a mature woman, she carried on the honor in which Chad laid down his life. ABC News came to interview her one day after Chad’s death. The reporter asked her this question: “Ma’am if you could say something to President Bush today, what would it be.” My 18-year-old daughter looked the reporter in the eye, sensing that he wanted her to bash the President for Chad’s death. Her response made my chest swell: “Sir, my husband was a Marine. His Commander in Chief is President Bush. I will not disgrace Chad’s memory and dishonor his service by degrading comments about his Commander or this Country.”
When we returned home, something strange happened. Danielle asked to go to the woods with me, and we did. Upon reaching the 25 foot tower stand where Chad and I hunted, we found the tower stand that had stood for years face down. When we came upon the second stand he hunted, there was a red oak tree that had blown straight through it. Through teary eyes, I looked at my daughter and said, “You know the greedy little knuckle head just didn’t want me hunting his stand.” To this day, that stand has not been touched. I reach to it every time I go into the woods and take a second to think of Chad. In fact, I quit hunting for three years after his death. I just couldn’t do it. But time went on and I started the healing process with one step by naming that second stand “Chad’s Stand.” One day I will rebuild it, and the first person that will hunt it will be the son that Chad honored me with by the name of Elijah.
Life has gone on. Danielle remarried, and I can honestly say one thing. If I had to pick a man for her, I could not have done any better. He honors the memory of Chad and is such as wonderful example of a father to the three sons they share. I have said all that to say this: Please don’t forget our fallen soldiers and their families. Don’t drive down I-20 and see the Powell, Barnes and Deal Memorial Highway sign and not remember. In honor of Chad and his brothers in arms, always remember our vets and on June 23 of this year, pause for a moment, bow your head and thank God for brave young men like my son-in-law and many more before and since who gave it all for our freedoms. But for me this year, on the 9th anniversary of his death, remember a skinny, freckled faced kid with a mischievous demeanor who loved to fish and hunt, is one reason that sign is there. This one is for you, Chad. Rest in Peace.