Christopher Chaisson - Graduate

Sep 23, 2011
Christopher Chaisson
Christopher Chaisson - Graduate

Change was among the only constants for Christopher Chaisson as he grew up.

The son of a peripatetic green beret, Chaisson moved constantly, attending seven middle schools and three high schools from Alaska to Massachusetts.

When he realized he wasn’t ready for college, Chaisson enlisted with the Army. “I wanted to be a green beret,” he recalls. Things didn’t go as planned though, and Chaisson served out his two-year enlistment as an infantryman stationed in Hawaii.

A series of jobs, including work as an EMT, a construction contractor and an assistant harbor master in Massachusetts, followed. After 9/11 though, Chaisson felt compelled to sign up for the National Guard. “I still had friends in the military.”

Chaisson was called up and stationed on a Cape Cod base caring for refugees from Hurricane Katrina. He says he was deeply moved by the survival stories he heard. “They were just so thankful to be someplace that was safe.”

Later, Chaisson found himself someplace significantly less safe when he served a 6-month tour Iraq. As an infantry team leader, he led foot patrols, managed convoy security and manned checkpoints.

After a vehicle he was riding in was struck by a roadside explosive device, Chaisson dealt with chronic knee and back pain. “I sucked it up to stay.” Two months later, things got worse. He was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was having horrible headaches, light hurt his eyes and his knee needed surgery.

After coming home from Iraq in 2006, Chaisson went in and out of treatment. He married a woman he met in a bar – 27 days after meeting her. His job with his father’s gutter and vinyl business came to a halt when his father sold it off. It was a blessing in disguise considering Chaisson’s injuries. “I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Chaisson and his wife moved to New Hampshire and started over. Taking college courses at night, worked during the day at the local Veterans Administration and American Legion. He felt like he had hard-won advice to offer other vets. “Get help if you need it. Don’t suck it up. You’re only going to do more damage to yourself and push away the people you love.”

Before long, Chaisson realized the New England weather was bad for his aching joints. So he and his wife moved to New Mexico, where they made a new life. It felt right. “It’s sunny 340 days a year,” Chaisson says of his new home. “There’s no reason to be in a bad mood.”

As a Wounded Warrior Program fellow, the 30-year-old Chaisson worked as a Veterans caseworker for Representatives Harry Teague and Ben Lujan of New Mexico. There was no shortage of cases and benefits issues to handle. 

Chaisson is now working with Horses for Heroes, a non-profit organization which is a unique horsemanship, wellness and skill-set restructuring program free to Veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries or combat trauma (PTSD) during their time serving our country.