Interview with Chad Williams, Former Navy SEAL and Author of "SEAL of God"
He spoke about his life growing up in Southern California, being sponsored by Vans as a skateboarder as a young teen, appearing in television commercials, and working on a sport- fishing boat.
Seeking to do something extraordinary with his life, Chad finally set his sights on becoming an elite Navy SEAL.
His father wasn’t too pleased with the idea, and set up a workout with former Navy SEAL Scott Helvenston, in an attempt to discourage him from doing so. Un-phased by the intense first workout, he began to work out regularly with Helvenston, who believed Chad had what it took to pass the highly-selective SEAL training process. “This guy really took me under his wing. He was my mentor,” Chad said by telephone. “I idolized him and he was like a second father to me.”
Scott was brutally murdered in Iraq just before Chad was to leave for boot camp. Recalling the moment when he learned the devastating news, he said he turned on the television, only to see a report that that featured Scott's picture with his birthday in the lower corner, followed by a dash, then the date of March 31, 2004. What followed next, was graphic video footage of his lifeless body being mutilated by insurgents. Later, his body was hung upside down from the Euphrates River bridge and set on fire.
The loss of his friend and mentor, only sharpened Chad's resolve to enter the military. Pushed by a desire to honor Scott's memory, he left for boot camp, the first step on his way to SEAL tryouts. During the rigorous training exercises during "Hell Week", trainees would typically write words or names under the brim of their hat for motivation (see below).
Out of his original class of 173 trainees, Chad was one of only 13 that would graduate from the elite SEAL training--by many accounts, the most rigorous seal training in the world.
It's called BUD/S, an acronym for Basic Underwater Demolition Seal Team Training, he said.
“That graduation day was one of the happiest, most fulfilling days of my life…but it was also one of the lowest lows,” he said.
Reaching the pinnacle of his career didn't bring the satisfaction he anticipated. Something was missing. And that something was Jesus-- he just didn't know it yet.
He soon began to descend into a dangerous lifestyle of partying- to the point of blacking out. One night, his family couldn't take it anymore.
“They begged me to come to church with them, and I agreed to go, but really it was just to get them off my back,” he said. After the church service, he intended to retrieve a hidden keg of beer in the garage for another night of partying.
In the service, the Lord touched him powerfully, after Pastor Greg Laurie delivered a dynamic message about the Biblical character of Naaman, a military man who was afflicted with leprosy. Naaman wore his tough armor on the outside, but on the inside, he was dying of the uncurable skin disease.
Naaman's story resounded with Chad who also served in the military. But he was afflicted by a different thing- sin, something we all suffer from. He soon began to come under conviction for that sin.
“I’m a SEAL on the outside, I wear this armor…this exterior, when the the truth is, underneath it all, I feel like I’m deteriorating. I feel like I’m falling apart,” he said, reflecting on how he felt that night.
Overwhelmed with a desire to come forward, he gave his heart to Christ. “That night, March 14, 2007 I heard, I understood the Gospel and I responded to it and I experienced what the scriptures say: ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things pass away, behold all things become new,'" he said. "Forgiveness of sin, eternity in heaven, a new life, a new heart.”
No longer defined by his accomplishments, he began to pursue life with a different goal in mind, to serve Christ.
“My sports success, my skateboarding commercials and fame, my sport-fishing gigs, my status as a Navy SEAL trainee- and then as a SEAL, they had all become my identity at various points in my life,” he wrote in his book. “But now that I was a Christian, my identity came from being a follower of Christ, and those things I had spent so much time, energy and effort trying to achieve became worthless to me.”
Blending his experience as a Navy SEAL, with a passion for Christ, he regularly speaks and shares his testimony. “I’m a SEAL for Christ now, It’s not about me, it’s about Him…whatever you do in word or need, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” he said.
In total, throughout his military career, he served for five years on SEAL Teams 1 and 7, completing tours of duty in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq.
His team was ambushed one night in Iraq- he describes the details in the book, but he survived. "It doesn't always work out that way," he said.
He also mentioned Mike Monsoor, a fellow SEAL who graduated just a few classes earlier, who jumped on a hand grenade to save the life of his fellow comrades.
"I want folks to see Jesus in this way: just as they revere...guys that have laid down their lives for their freedom.., well if they can just use them as a lens to look through to get a clearer view of what the cross is all about," he said.
He commented on how the sacrifice that men like Scott Helvenston, Mike Monsoor and other servicemen and women made for freedom and to protect the lives of others, reflects how Jesus Christ gave His life for us.
"Just as Mike Monsoor jumped on a hand grenade to absorb the blast of that grenade on himself so that others could live, this is exactly what Jesus did at the cross, but to an even greater degree. He absorbed the blast ...of devastating consequences of our sin upon himself, and the reason why was so that we could live with Him in eternity," he said.
If you’re reading this, and you’ve never given your heart to Christ like Chad did that night, all it takes is a simple prayer.
"Father I confess you as Lord and Savior. Please come into my life today and cleanse me from my sin. I want to know you in a deeper, more powerful way. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. I invite you into my heart today.”
He currently travels across the country as a keynote speaker. For more information, visit his website.