While many people would define their life by what they have accomplished, military veteran and Northwest financial assistance counselor Chris Scroggins said he wouldn’t be where he’s at without his various teammates.
Teamwork is a word everybody knows but only a few people truly understand. For Scroggins, teamwork can be summed up perfectly in the words of Johnny Rico from “Starship Troopers.”
At the start of the scene, the current lieutenant has died and Rico has been asked if he wants to take his position. Confidently, he answers in the words of the deceased lieutenant.
“I’ll do it until it kills me or until you find someone better,” Rico said.
This quote has stuck with Scroggins since he first watched “Starship Troopers."
“I absolutely love that answer because what he’s saying there is that he’ll take that job and lead that platoon to 100 percent of his ability because they have told him to do that,” Scroggins said. “What he’s also saying is that he’ll do it until it kills him or until they find someone better. Now that’s what I find awesome.”
Taking this quote to heart, Scroggins works to better those around him. His efforts can most be seen through the Missouri Hope disaster relief simulation or Team Rubicon, an international non-profit organization aiming to help veterans by using disaster relief efforts as a way to integrate them better into civilian life.
Transfer Academic Advisor Brady Willis became friends with Scroggins during his year at Northwest in 2012 after getting out of the military a year prior. They connected through similar experiences and the true understanding of what it meant to lay your life on the line.
“Getting out of and being in the military was a pretty big connection,” Willis said. “We don’t like to talk about it a lot but it’s nice to have a really close friend that understands the experiences and then what comes after that.”
Beyond being friends, Willis said Scroggins is a great leader and does his best for everybody he helps.
“He empowers really well. That’s one of his best traits, working with people,” Willis said. “Just his leadership ability and then he usually pushes it into the teams he builds when we’re working with Missouri Hope or any of his time working with Team Rubicon.”
Humanities and Social Sciences professor Brian Hesse was one of Scroggins teachers at Northwest and has worked with Scroggins many times during the Missouri Hope simulations.
Hesse said he has such incredible admiration for Scroggins’ ability to motivate people to do the best they can. He even goes on to discuss Team Rubicon and the impact it had on Scoggins.
“I think that’s a fantastic organization that allowed Chris to thrive and further develop the skills that he already has in regards to servant leadership,” Hesse said. “He’s so service driven and to do that in the company of other vets ... That organization is amazing, but it’s amazing because it has people like Chris Scroggins in it.”
Scroggins said the most important aspect to leading is the ability to follow as well.
“The important part of leadership is followership ... Especially being in the Marines and you know leading a team over in Iraq and leading Team Rubicon people here in the States, one thing I realized was important was to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower,” Scroggins said. “You need to be able to backup your leaders.”
Scroggins’ journey to joining the military was a tough one, full of life-altering decisions and experiences he would never forget.
Before Scroggins joined, he was just a country boy raised and born in Oregon, Missouri, where he was homeschooled by his mother while his dad worked at a factory.
Scroggins’ dad instilled the importance of loyalty in him when he was younger which helped him when it came to his military service.
“He taught me about loyalty to family, loyalty to your partner … You should always be loyal. That was always a very big deal,” Scroggins said. “When I went into the Marines, I could really understand that. I had a very strong bond with the guys in my platoon. They felt like my family. I knew more about them than I did most of my family.”
After dropping out of college, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps infantry team. Even with his military training, Scroggins wasn’t prepared for the life-threatening experience. It took his first fire fight to truly understand how fragile life is.
“I was crouched down by my Humvee and I was re-loading. I could hear the bullets going all around me and I could see them hitting the ground. I knew I had to stand up and start shooting because I saw my buddies were all around me shooting,” Scroggins said. “I remember the only thing going through my mind was if I put my head up right now, it could very easily get taken off by a bullet.”
During this time, he said he began thinking about his friends, family and everybody back home. Watching his friends around him though brought him back to reality.
“The training kind of took over and you look over and see your brothers all around you fighting, and then you realize you can’t let them fight by themselves and that’s kind of what keeps you going,” Scroggins said.
After this incident, he survived four improvised explosive device detonations in Iraq. Three of them were in his first deployment in 2006. The last IED was the worst in his 2008 deployment.
When his Humvee hit an underground IED in his last deployment, Scroggins ended up in the hospital for three weeks with a grade three concussion and ruptured eardrum. Due to his injuries, he was awarded the Purple Heart, which is given to members of the armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war or who were killed in action.
“I always like to make the joke that the Purple Heart is like the ‘I forgot to duck award,’” Scroggins said. “One of those things that makes me proud about it is knowing some of the guys I know who had theirs and the legacy that it carries with it as well.”
Willis shared the same sentiment and humor Scroggins did about the Purple Heart.
“He needs to learn how to duck,” Willis said. “I like to give him a hard time, but he sacrificed a lot over there and went through a lot. It’s a miracle he was here, and I wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t. I’m glad he got the Purple Heart because it means that he is here still.”
Despite being awarded the Purple Heart, Scroggins doesn’t see it in a negative light and doesn’t let it define him. In the end, it helped shape him as a person and keeps him moving forward.
“You always have to keep pushing forward,” Scroggins said. “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes it’s not a train.”