Sean Chipman: Marine finds home in Big Rapids

I have lived in Milwaukee, Chicago, California and in Bloomington, Ill.; but I now call Big Rapids my home.

It has not always been easy here in Big Rapids though. As a three-time combat veteran, there are certain events that cannot be changed. However, my feelings associated with the deaths of my friends can hopefully be changed for the better.

San Sim, Deon Taylor, and Adrian Robles died immediately following an improvised explosive device detonation in southern Afghanistan in 2008. I think of them every day.

We were quickly informed of the person who built the devise but we were unable to detain him due to the volatility of the region, and the lack of manpower in the area.

During the deployment, the platoon fought the Taliban in large numbers, often outnumbered by significant scores of fighters.

I think of the man who built that bomb every day, and I am unsure what I would have done if we had the permission to raid his house. I feel guilty that I am alive and the three are not, as two of these men had families to support.

I cannot imagine the difficulties that their children face, knowing full-well that their fathers will never return home.

Prior to the last school year, I decided to move to Big Rapids to continue my education at Ferris State, and surround myself with an extensive network of family bonds. I have had tremendous difficulties during my transition to civilian life. I never would have guessed how many people have taken a personal interest in my well-being here in Big Rapids.

After the completion my four years of service to our country as a U.S. Marine, I now have the pleasure of serving our local community again through the Big Rapids Lions Club.

I started to volunteer with the club after encouragement by my grandfather, Jim Chipman, at the concession stand during Ferris football games. There I have fostered a bond with many others such as the Perrins and the McKinleys through service work.

I officially became a member in March, and when I was pinned with a Lions pendant I felt a similar sense of pride as compared to receiving my Marine emblem: the eagle, globe, and anchor. I also know that my grandparents were proud too.

I had never missed a Lions Club meeting until a few weeks ago. When a fellow member acknowledged my absence, he approached my grandfather.

After asking about my whereabouts, he told him that I was receiving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment at the Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Prior to my admittance, I had a flashback during a drinking binge at the Gypsy Nickel, and I knew that I must enter PTSD treatment again for my third attempt. I have learned much about my condition over the last few years, but I have found it hard to use these tools in real world applications.

While knowing some of the information, the club is interested in my recovery from war and is willing to do whatever it takes to lend a hand.

Others have taken notice too and are willing to help me during the recovery service. Curtis Smalligan, Alex Wittman and Amy Dunleavy have been in my corner and have already aided to my healing by offering needed support. I am indebted to them all.

As I await an opening into the PTSD program at Battle Creek, I will continue to engage closely with the Big Rapids Lions Club and the community.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Big Rapids community for helping me during these trying times, and I look forward to making Big Rapids a better place for all.


Reed City resident Sean Chipman is a U.S. Marine who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now a student at Ferris State University, where he writes for the Ferris State Torch.

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