Local man shares story of bravery, tragedy & perservance

By Crystal Britt

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - He signed up to serve our country more than 10 years ago.

Little did he know, that decision would change his life forever.

Those who know and love Chad Hampton of Cape Girardeau believe he's living proof that miracles can happen.

He's a humble guy, and really if you met Chad Hampton you'd never know what he went through.

An accident while serving in the military more than 7 years ago changed Chad not only on the outside, but the inside too.

He says he survived for a reason.

"I never thought I would join the military", said Hampton.

In 1999 Hampton felt the call, a call to join the U.S. Army.

In February of 2000, Chad Hampton just turned 22 years old.

He left civilian life behind for a chance to serve the country.

His training began in Fort Carson, Colorado.

"In June of 2001 is when I got my orders for Germany," said Hampton.

Three months later the world was stunned as terrorists unleashed horror on September 11th.

"We knew we were coming down on orders for Iraq at anytime," said Hampton.

Chad's training as a combat engineer would intensify.

In February of 2003, while still in Germany, Chad suffered a minor injury that kept him from training in the field with the rest of his fellow soldiers.

That setback would change his life forever.

"I was the only one available because everyone else was still out in the field training," said Hampton.

Specialist Hampton was asked to assist a driver on a routine trip to the wash rack.

It's a place where they would wash military vehicles.

That day, it was an A-113 Armored Personnel Carrier.

"I was knelt down behind the track which was also towing a trailer," said Hampton.

He was trying to plug in the hose so they could wash the vehicle.

"Before I knew it I felt pain and pressure on my life side."

The driver was unaware of Chad's location.

"He assumed I was clear, and because he did the chalk blocks weren't down," said Hampton. "He took his foot off the break, and the track and trailer due to the weigh slid and crushed my head between the bottom left end of the trailer and pushed it up against the concrete wall."

He says it was at least 15 tons of equipment.

It crushed or shattered everything from his jaw to the top of his head.

"My eyes at one point were popping out of my head like they were on springs. My face as I knew it was just a mess," said Hampton.

Two weeks later when he woke up he was hospitalized in Germany.

"Woke up, and everything was black. The military didn't expect me to live," said Hampton.

But, Chad says he began to experience one miracle after another.

"They (doctors) themselves reconstructed my face with nothing to go on."

His I.D. was no where to be found.

He believes the surgeons hands were guided by a higher power.

"There's no way they could have gotten as close as the way I looked before as they did without some supernatural divine help," said Hampton.

He spent nearly three months in the hospital.

The once active 26 year old was hit with the reality that nothing would ever be the same.

The accident not only changed his face, but left him blind.

"Even if you're close I can't see fine detail because my eyes no longer have the ability to focus."

In the coming years Chad came to Cape Girardeau.

It's was at Cape First church where we met his future wife.

"We had never even spoken, and as I crossed three rows in front of him I actually heard in my heart...he could be the one," said Leigh Hampton.

Chad and Leigh were married in January of 2008.

"I never saw his disability," said Leigh.

Last August, their son Issac was born.

Chad and Leigh both worried about what Chad would miss.

"There's a lot of stuff he does facial stuff that I miss," said Chad.

But, you'd never know this dad ever misses a beat.

Whether it be through family or his other passion.

"Getting to do what I wanted to do since I was six years old," said Chad.

Despite his disability he continues to pursue his love of music.

"His dreams didn't stop just because his vision stopped," said Leigh.

He's teaching drum lessons while working on an album, and performing.

Likely no one in the audience at Red Star Baptist Church would ever realize the man behind the drum set can't see.

"I know I am here for a reason," said Chad.

Even though the reflection in the mirror is different, and blurred...Chad seems more focused than ever on family and career.

"I'm proud that he served our country," said Leigh Hampton. "I'm proud that he gets up every morning and continues to be a good citizen, a compassionate husband, a loving father, and a dreamer."

Leigh said, "It's amazing the things he can do. He's truly an inspiration."

Chad also apparently knows his way around the kitchen, as Leigh says he's the cook in the house.

The military medically retired Chad.

It may have ended that part of his life, but certainly the injury opened a whole new chapter.

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