By ANDREA BARKAN
Pilot Staff Writer
At 19, Chad Streeter was a most unlikely soldier. He'd spent his teen years in Brookings as a skater with a penchant for punk rock and an affinity for tattoos.
"He wasn't a bad kid," his mother, Margurite Streeter, said. "He was a rebel."
Now, nearly 11 years later, Sgt. Chad Streeter is an Army medic who recently returned from Baghdad, where he was shift leader in the emergency room at a combat hospital.
He may have traded his skateboard for a Humvee, but Chad, 30, never relinquished the tattoos.
After his hospital shifts in Iraq, Chad spent hours every night permanently decorating the skin of officers, soldiers and more.
"I was doing doctors and everybody," he said.
Since March, he's been stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky., in charge of line medics for infantry.
And this holiday season he was back in Brookings with his family; only his second Christmas home since joining the Army in 1994.
"It's the best because all our kids are here," Margurite said of this holiday season.
Chad's older brother, Cory Streeter, is a veteran himself. He joined the Army two weeks after his high school graduation.
Cory spent 2 1/2 years serving active duty and five years with the National Guard. He, too, was a medic.
Many people were surprised when Chad enlisted, including Margurite and his father, Ron Streeter.
"His dad and I were ... in total shock," Margurite said.
But his brother had a different take.
"I think he was just trying to better his life," Cory said.
For Margurite and Ron, having two sons in the military simultaneously was hard.
"I was paranoid," Margurite said. "Both our sons were in, so it was really difficult."
That was during peaceful times. By the time the war in Iraq started, Cory's service was through.
But Chad was there during the first days of the U.S. invasion.
"When the war came along, it was ... very hard for his dad and I," Margurite said.
In one year, Chad and the hospital staff treated 8,000 patients, he said.
"Even the actual doctors said they'd never seen that much trauma," Chad said.
But hospital scenes aren't the same today as in past wars, he said.
Chad said one in five U.S. soldiers died from their wounds during the Vietnam War, while one in ten die from their wounds in Iraq.
"The medical capabilities are a lot better," he said.
The military hospitals offer more than medicine, such as the chance for Iraqis to work in the medical field, expanding their knowledge and improving their skills.
Chad worked with about 40 Iraqi staff, including doctors and nurses.
"A lot of them that worked with us are in college in the states now," Chad said.
"They've been through a lot. A lot of their families have been killed ... by us."
It would seem the pressure cooker of an emergency room in a combat zone would send even the most seasoned veteran into the trauma treatment ward himself, but Chad said he actually looks forward to returning and misses it when he's away.
"I miss the adrenaline," he said.
He longs for the camaraderie, too.
"It's really like a brotherhood," Chad said. "You're there for a year, all together, so it's almost like a family."
In fact, his stateside family is one of the only reasons he doesn't like being so far away.
Chad has a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter who live in Colorado.
"It's hard being away from my kids and family," he said.
He also acknowledged that serving overseas is hard on love relationships.
He's seen plenty of soldiers lose wives and fiances after a tour. He's lost one, too. His own engagement ended when he returned to the states from Iraq earlier this year.
"The Army, I think, is harder on families than the actual people who are (serving)," Chad said.
But like everything else in war, "You learn to deal with it," he said.
The Army has taught Chad a lot, including how to deal with his fears.
"I'm scared of heights and yet I jump out of planes," he said.
Chad got airborne when he trained at Ft. Bragg, N.C. in the late 1990s.
The Army also forced Chad to develop his leadership skills. Chad plans to continue his military career until retirement.
"His dad and I and all our family are very proud of him," Margurite said.
He'll return to Iraq between May and August.
"I'm actually looking forward to going back," Chad said. "That's what I joined the Army for."