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franklin county times

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Tony Chard

It was January 1984. Tony Chard was 18 years old, approaching his graduation from Coffee High School in Florence and without a definite plan for his future. One course of action presented itself, and after a chat with a recruiter, Chard had made his decision. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and uncles and committed to the United States Marines. “It was just something I felt like I should do, and I did it.” He left for boot camp Nov. 10, 1984.

“To me personally, boot camp – didn’t matter what branch it was – their goal was to see if they could break you physically but more so mentally. If they could break you mentally, they didn’t want you,” Chard explained. “It made us stronger … Once you got the hang of it, the physical things wasn’t a big deal no more.”

After boot camp, Chard went to heavy equipment mechanic school and was later assigned to Okinawa for a year with the 3rd Marine Division. He was in a support platoon for heavy equipment and learned to operate much of it. After that he was assigned to a generator shop, through which he supplied power for radio communications and other needs.

“I was fortunate enough that I was always stationed with a combat unit,” Chard said. “I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to go into combat.”

He went through different kinds of training in countries across the world – like the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea.

Chard married his wife Dana Seay in 1987. They had their daughter in 1988 – which “got me to thinking,” Chard said. “I’d been on standby for some conflicts” – like action in Libya under Gaddafi in 1985. “We sat on a tarmac for two days, to see what Libya would do, in case we needed to ship out.” With a new family to take care of, Chard decided to complete his military service in 1988.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Chard’s younger brother had joined the Marine Corps Reserves, and he encouraged his older brother to do the same. With monthly drills being the main requirement, and with the monthly paycheck being enough to cover his truck payment and insurance, he decided to join the Reserves in 1989.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait under Saddam Hussein. Military units began to activate. In December 1990, on the brink of Desert Storm, Chard’s unit got the call.

“That was right up my alley. That was something I’d been trying to do since ’84,” Chard said. “We went over there, did our thing and came back home.”

That’s the short version. Chard, with Kilo Battery, 4th Marines, was stationed at a camp in Saudi Arabia. “We’d go and run up into Kuwait, but the day the ground war started, we breached the minefields and all that on the Iraqi-Kuwait border,” Chard explained. His unit was on the ground during the infamous “Highway of Death” bombing. His unit also was attached to the 2nd Marine Division and at times traveled with Army units.

“A lot of the Marines in my unit, several of them, I grew up with in high school – through church, through the community,” he said. “There were at least six or seven of us that were all from the Florence–Colbert–Lauderdale area.”

He remembers other connections, too. He ran across a cousin who was deployed at the same time, and of course his younger brother, who encouraged him to join the Reserves, was there too.

“I’m proud for the service I did, and I have a lot of respect for all veterans,” Chard said. “I’d go back tomorrow if they needed me. The countries I’ve been to, I’ve seen how they live and how they’re ruled. They aren’t all democratic countries like we are here in the United States, and a lot of people don’t understand that.

“I’ve never really liked bullies. In a lot of the countries, there’s bullies involved in running stuff,” he added. “I’m not big on that.”

Following his service in the Gulf War, Chard completed his term in the Reserves.

Chard, 58, and Dana have one daughter, Erin, and twin sons, Ben and Charlie; Chard is a twin as well. He has six grandchildren, ranging in age from 8 months to 14 years. He works in facility maintenance for the TVA and lives in Russellville.

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