In 2008, Christopher Nelson was all set to go into the Coast Guard. Two years later, he was in the Army, and the blast from a suicide bomber knocked him off his feet.
“I was in the Bazaar with some other soldiers,” Nelson said. “We had made it back through the checkpoint when the bomb went off. I was far away, but the blast was strong enough.”
Nelson was serving as a field artillery specialist during both of his deployments to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. Field artillery specialists coordinate computer systems for fire support in combat operations.
“It’s pretty much logistics for firing from a distance,” Nelson said. “My job was to make sure the sights could recalibrate according to mission standards.”
Even at a low rank as junior enlisted, Nelson found himself in a role of high security, responsibility, and danger. It was a very different world from the one he would have found himself in had he joined the Coast Guard.
Nelson said he doesn’t regret what happened, even when his role became high-risk.
“My first deployment was fine,” he said. “My second deployment, a lot of things were happening…People were dying.”
His unit was operating in Gardez, an area that has been difficult for NATO forces to stabilize. The forward operating base was situated in a valley and the surrounding mountains posed as a good vantage point for enemy combatants.
He was lucky to escape the suicide bombing unscathed. Later on, during the same deployment, Nelson was riding in a convoy when an IED flipped his vehicle. The force of the blast fractured both of his legs.
“That was the beginning of the end of my time in the service,” Nelson said.
After returning to civilian life, he became a paramedic, but he joined the V.E.T.S.™ Program after feeling the initiative was a good fit to his military career. So far, he has proven himself to be a vital member of the first cycle of trainees, often teaching classes on advanced software and mentoring other veterans like him.
When asked about upcoming projects with the V.E.T.S.™ Program, he stated that he was ready to show what he has learned and to be part of a team again.
“I’m nervous and happy at the same time,” he mused, smiling.
Nelson was part of the deployment to one of the client sites as a quality assurance tester.