Growing up, Eggleston had no lack of military influences in his life. From the G.I. Joe action figures he played with to the service records of his father and grandfather, Eggleston knew he wanted to be a hero when he got older. He was also inspired by those fighting in Operation Desert Storm and wanted to pay their sacrifices forward. In 1992, he joined the U.S. Army.
In the following decade, Eggleston as an Army Reservist when he first deployed to Iraq in 2003. He received his first injury in Baghdad and would be wounded again in 2004 while on assignment to the Middle East. Ever resilient, Eggleston deployed to Iraq once more in 2005 as an Army Staff Sergeant in the 107th Army Cavalry Regiment (ACR), attached to 3rd SF Group, the 25th Infantry Division, and the 11th ACR. When his unit was on a rescue and recovery mission, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated, Eggleston’s condition after the explosion was so extreme that the blast had critically damaged his back, head, legs, and arms.
When Eggleston returned stateside, he was treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). Unfortunately, his physical and mental recovery was hampered by the poor conditions and management at the hospital. Eggleston bravely spoke out against the improper care and living condition at Walter Reed, marking the start of his impassioned advocacy for Veterans and their caregivers. Throughout the three and a half years he was at WRAMC, he underwent over 56 surgeries and In 2009, Eggleston medically retired from the Army after 16 years of service. He earned the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for his courageous actions.
Due to the severity of his injuries, it was a miracle that Eggleston was alive, let alone able to walk again. After his long-term hospital stay, Eggleston struggled with lingering body pain and PTSD from his time in combat, but he found healing in the form of golf, a game that had never interested him. Playing golf allowed him to recover physically and mentally, and he began to loved the camaraderie of the sport. “Golf is a complete game of concentration,” Eggleston said. “You can hit that ball sweetly, and it goes into the heavens the right way. That itself became my integrated recovery tool.” After leaving the military, Eggleston began a career in IT consulting, which he did for over ten years. He done several government contracts, including the Pentagon, USPS, and the U.S. Senate. In 2009 he started his own IT consulting firm where he hired fellow Veterans.
Charles Eggleston lives in Annapolis, MD and in his civilian life, he has continued to campaign for Veteran benefits and rights “We fight now for the guys and girls that fall behind us, not for us,” he explained. “Because we stand on the shoulders of the Vietnam era, the World War II, World War I, Korean era.” Eggleston leads a rich life where he gives back to numerous Veteran causes, including Blue Families, Taps, ThanksUSA, and Salute Military Golf Association. He helps other Veterans that are struggling with PTSD and TBIs by mentoring them through the game of golf. Throughout all the trials Eggleston has experienced, his family and optimism have allowed him to conquer them with honor and dignity. “When you program your body and your mind to think positive and to feel good…once you walk down that road of positivity, once you believe, I feel like I can soar.”
Full Transcript of Video Interview is Below:
– [Interviewer] Charles.
– How you doing sir?
– Greg Sher from NFM TV.
– Pleasure meeting you, sir.
– Thank you for agreeing to be our NFM Salute for the month of May 2021.
– I appreciate it.
– Thank you for your service. [Interviewer] You’ve got quite a story to tell. One of overcoming adversity, serving your country, coming back from the dead and serving the wounded community. It’s what we call a walk of life. Every person has their own path, and this is the path I walk. Well, we’re going to walk down it with you just for a moment here. You were wounded multiple times, two and a half stints in Iraq, 2003, 2004, 2005.
– Let’s talk about what inspired you to get into the military. I know your father served in Vietnam.
– Grandfather, World War II.
– So you had plenty of inspiration.
– And I always wanted to be like G.I. Joe, Spiderman, Batman, Superman.
– Well, you got your wish You served 16 years, two and a half tours of duty in Iraq. Let’s sit down and talk about them.
– [Interviewer] What can you tell us `about your time served overseas?
– Served several stints overseas. We was there to normalize the situation, as we was told, but of course, you know, it turned a whole different direction.
– You were a weapons specialist.
– In your role, over in Iraq for those two and a half years. Your job there was what?
– Rifleman. I’m a small arms specialist.
– Now, when you showed up, the party was over.
– If we show up, it’s always a team measure, party is gonna soon end.
– You’re a Purple Heart recipient, two and a half tours, and you were wounded multiple times. Take us from the first time through the last.
– The first time it happened, it was actually downtown Baghdad. And next I know, boom, pop. And I’m like, ‘What was that?’ And when I turned around I’m already hit. I’m like, ‘Oh man.’ And it felt like glass had hit your arm because I have body armor and stuff on. Patched me up and moved out to another mission the next day. Other time I was in a Humvee, it ran across IED. Last time was almost like a blur. Now that’s when I lost team, team members, at that time. We was going in to rescue a down team, and we felt like we was on top of our job. And we got there, we suppress the opposition. As we’re loading bodies of our dead fellow men on to a track vehicle. The last thing I remember, I felt like a tremble. It was multiple IEDs and mortar fire coming in. Next thing I remember, it felt like I was dreaming. I was flowing through the air. And when the medics came, they basically said, you know, we counted you as out because when we came through the first town, it wasn’t anything going. It’s many years later, but it’s fresh as it was yesterday, when it happened.
– And you had a lot of treatment.
– Had a lot of treatment.
– [Interviewer] You were at Walter Reed for three and a half years.
– [Charles] Three and a half years, 56 surgeries.
– [Interviewer] 56 surgeries, you’ve now eclipsed 70 surgeries. What do you recall about those times?
– I would never imagine the pain I went through going through the rehabilitation. Mentally as well as physical. It seemed like it was surgery after surgery. Felt like I was sitting in quicksand and it just wasn’t happening quick enough. That’s when the Walter Reed scandal came up and I just felt like we’ve been mistreated as war fighters.
– [Interviewer] And you reach out to your local Congress person.
– I did.
– And you shed a big light on that scandal and lots of actions were taken.
– And next thing I know, I see the President of the United States coming to my bedside the day after my surgery, with a tear in his eye, and said, ‘We’re gonna to fix this. I don’t know why this happened, but we will fix this.’ You know, and then his father, when me and his father and Tiger Woods played golf together, his father, he apologized for his son. He said, ‘You shouldn’t have been in Iraq.’ ‘That should have never happened.’ I said, ‘I agree.’ We fight now for the guys and girls who fall behind us, not for us, because we stand on the shoulders of the Vietnam era, the World War II, the World War I, Korean era. Just to have that effigy, and be a part of that, meant so much.
– Do you think in some ways you were spared for a greater cause?
– I think so. It felt like I was touched by an angel, sometime.
– [Interviewer[ Your life has been Hollywood-like in some ways. Since you spoke out, so many other people who respect and admire you. What has that transition been like, from serving to being in the hospital for three and a half years to that transformation, where you’re finally heard?
– When you walk into a room, when you’re received a certain way, you just feel like maybe we do have some type of respect in the game, and maybe these guys do appreciate us.
– [Interviewer] When you think about your life, your journey. You went through absolute hell and now you’re in a different place in your life. I mean, physically you’re walking. You look great. I know you’ve got metal and all kinds of things in you, but you’re so positive. Your energy is so infectious. How do you reconcile the two chapters in your life?
– [Charles] When you program your body and your mind to think positive and to feel good. Like certain times of the year, this whole side of my face light up because it’s metal. And it hurts. Most of my back is titanium. Once you’ve walked down that road of positivity, once you believe, I feel like I can soar. I may not fly but, at least I feel it for a moment.
– You brought some things for us to take a look at. Really appreciate you doing that. These things are amazing, man. I’m like, my hands shaking. It’s just incredible.
– This is the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry badge. This is my Bronze Star, for valor. And these are what I call trinkets of love. It’s just what I call a remembrance piece. It brings me back to where I should be. When it comes to the Purple Heart, it’s the oldest decoration we have in U.S. history, military history. This one was constructed by George Washington himself.
– Most of the people that receive that they’re not with us today, are they?
– Definitely not.
– You golf a lot.
– I do.
– What is it about golf that soothes you and helps you continue the healing process?
– Golf is a complete game of concentration. You can hit that ball sweetly and it flows out into the heavens the right way. That in itself became my integrated recovery tool.
– [Interviewer] So Charles, you chose IHOOT as the organization, in which you’d like the $2,500 donation to go towards. The acronym stands for In Honor Of Our Troops. What does the organization mean to you?
– Means a lot. It became a lifeline for me. I was at, at that point, it was at the beginning of the Walter Reed scandal. And I was probably, probably my lowest point because I was having all the crazy surgeries, I was being pressured by the family. I was being pressured by the media. I was being pressured by DOD itself. So I ran into Phil Strambler, while I was at Walter Reed. And he said, ‘You really look like you need to relax.’ I say, ‘Yeah, yeah, if I could afford to get out of here, I would relax.’ You want to make that happen?’ He’s like, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ Next thing I know I had plane tickets in my hand. And I went and got away in Vegas for about a week, and it meant so much because it helped me actually heal a lot faster. It melted away a lot of the anxiety I was going through.
– It’s an amazing organization. Philip.
– Started it 21 years ago. He’s a Vietnam Veteran himself
– [Charles] Right.
– [Interviewer] He’s helped over 14,000 families, and the generous donations of accommodations, eclipses $43 million at this point. He’s just an incredible person. If you want to find out more information, obviously you can go to Ihoot.org. In addition to the $2,500 donation to IHOOT, we also have a gift for you. I’d like to give you right now. This is from our president Jan Ozga. This is a beautiful golf bag.
– I like that.
– Hopefully you can find some use for this.
– I will definitely. It’s a nice golf bag.
– Yup. We’re going to get your name engraved in it. Anything you want. I can’t thank you enough for your time and again for your service.
– Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
– We really appreciate it. Godspeed, continued good health to you.
– And I appreciate everything you do.
– Thank you.
– And your organization. I mean, you change lives. IHOOT changes lives. IHOOT basically changed my life. I’m who I am now because of guys like you and Phil.
– Thank you so much.
– Thank you. Appreciate this.
– You got it, bro.
– So much.