• Anchor Point veteran “incredibly grateful to live in America”
By Christina Whiting
Thanksgiving brings that time of year when we give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. This year, the day takes on a very special meaning for the Chambers family of Anchor Point.
Josh Chambers, the elder of two sons born to Kevin and Nancy Chambers, graduated from Homer High School in 2000. He joined the Air Force in 2008, and, last week, was shot in his right leg — just below the knee — while on duty in Afghanistan.
Chambers first underwent surgery on his leg in Germany, with a second surgery taking place in Seattle. He will soon undergo physical therapy.
“The news is good,” Nancy said. “No pins were needed, and the nerve damage was not as severe as they first feared. The doctors were able to close the wound with no skin grafts, and it looks like the leg could heal by itself.”
Chambers’ hardy Alaska doggedness is certainly nothing new.
“Josh was a very intense kid,” his mother explained. “He was competitive, athletic and driven.”
In high school, Chambers played football and basketball, and ran track. When he was 17, he lost a big toe while mowing the lawn.
“When he lost his toe, the doctors told us he’d always have difficulty walking and wouldn’t be able to play sports,” Nancy said. “Josh is a very determined person, and it wasn’t long after his accident that he competed with the track team at State. He wasn’t about to let his injury hold him back.”
“Exercise and physical activity are very important to me,” he said. “I’m very competitive by nature, so sports have always been a passion. They’re also a great stress-reliever.”
Besides sports, Chambers’ hobbies growing up included writing comic books and sketching. He received a football scholarship from Harding University in Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in art.
“I was always pretty good at drawing and painting,” he said. “I had a natural talent for it and wanted to pursue it more. Fortunately, my success in high school sports provided me with a scholarship.”
Chambers said that, after earning his degree, he wanted to pursue a career that would challenge him. He applied to the Marines, but wasn’t accepted, because of his missing toe.
Determined to find a place for himself in the military, Chambers applied for and was accepted into a special forces position in the U.S. Air Force. He began his four years of training in 2008, choosing “combat control” as his field of specialty. The position is one that very few military personnel graduate from.
“I wanted to do something challenging in the military, and this was the most challenging thing I could find,” Chambers said. “It’s been what I was looking for — plus some.”
Combat control is deployed with any Special Forces team, including the army, navy or marines. The controller is responsible for communications, air-traffic control and strike co-ordination.
“My work life in the Air Force has been different every day,” he said. “When stationed at home, I might be controlling aircraft, dropping bombs or skydiving from 18,000 feet one day and the next, I could be at the squadron, emailing schedules for training missions.”
This past August, Chambers was sent to Afghanistan on a six-month deployment. He was stationed in the mountains of east Afghanistan.
“It is really rough terrain, and the people there are generally poor; they live off a small plot of land on the side of a hill,” he said. “It is definitely a different way of life and thinking than we are used to. It made me incredibly grateful to live in America.”
Chambers said serving in the military has provided him with a new perspective on life, as well.
“I definitely appreciate how fragile life is now,” he said. “I have learned to be thankful for every day.”
Being in the military also provided him an outlet for his creativity.
“I’d sketch or paint on the side if I had the time,” he said. “I designed some tattoos for guys and was asked to create a couple of memorial paintings for fallen controllers. It was a good way to honor them and their families. No matter what I’m doing, art has and will always play some role in my life.”
As his leg heals, Chambers is considering his future path in life.
“Everything is pretty much up in the air right now,” he said. “Once I recover, I’ll need to decide what my future in the military will look like.”
Chambers married Erin, an elementary school teacher, this past June. He was introduced to her by her grandfather, who was a friend of the family.
“She was living in Atlanta and I was living in Nashville and we kept in touch,” Chambers said. “When she moved to Seattle and I moved nearby, we became friends — and the rest is history. Now, we’re looking forward to a honeymoon and starting a family.”
Chambers said he is grateful for his Alaska upbringing and the support he received as a youth.
“There were a few coaches through the years that definitely had a positive impact on my life,” he said. “I learned a lot from these guys and really appreciate their influence.”
Of all his mentors, however, Chambers said he is most grateful for his dad.
“I learned the most from my dad,” he said. “I was pretty stubborn and never listened to him at first. I’m glad he stuck it out to teach me the really important stuff. I got my work ethic and competitive drive from my dad. I don’t know of anyone who works harder than he does.”
This Thanksgiving, Chambers and his family give thanks for his safety and pray for his full recovery.
“I’m extremely grateful for the life I have in this country,” he said. “During the last six months, I’ve realized just how good we have it here. My life is fantastic.”
Anyone wishing to send well wishes to Josh and Erin Chambers may do so by mailing them to 30212 5th Avenue South, Federal Way, Wash., 98003.
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