For freedom’s sake

Understanding forgiveness stopped US Navy SEAL Chad Williams from going ‘out for blood’ in revenge

Chad Williams

Formerly a college dropout and sponsored skateboarder, Chad Williams thought that becoming a US Navy SEAL was the ultimate success but soon realized that his selfish and revengeful focus solved none of his problems.

Admiring the American SEALs since childhood, 19-year-old Chad was "willing to die" to become like his SEAL-trained mentor, Scott Helvenston.

Chad's respect for his mentor deepened when he learned that Scott was the only victor on the Man vs Beast TV show, the youngest man to ever complete SEAL training at age 17 and a world champion pentathlete.

"(Scott) would refer to me as junior. He was like a second father to me. We would go running, swimming, kayaking and mountain climbing together," Chad says.

Then on March 31, 2004, while preparing for SEAL physical screening, Chad was shocked when TV news announced Scott's death in Iraq, then broadcast internet-sourced footage of an angry mob beating his lifeless corpse with sticks.

Chad recalls: "I watched them wrap rope around Scott's legs, hook him up to a car and drag his body through the town of Fallujah. Then they hanged him upside down from the Euphrates River Bridge, like a piece of meat, before burning his body.

"I went numb, like absolute evil just went inside me. Before I wanted to be just like Scott; to 'fight for freedom' as he said – now I wanted to personally rip out the hearts of those men who did that to Scott."

Chad in uniform
Chad (left) in uniform

Among over 170 of a usual SEAL intake, Chad endured 18 months of punishing elite training to become a SEAL alongside only a dozen that remained.

However, he remembers his graduation in 2005 was, "one of the happiest and one of the lowest days of my life. It was just 'grasping after the wind', as the Bible book of Ecclesiastes says."

Placed on SEAL Team One that was 18 months from redeployment, Chad began drinking and defeating challengers in bar fights, before blacking out in the morning.

When his parents asked him to leave home, Chad slyly went to church with them so he could later secretly retrieve a stolen keg of beer.

Yet the church pastor, Greg Laurie, captured Chad's full attention as he spoke about a military man in the Bible who had a seemingly incurable problem.

Chad and Audrey
Chad and his wife Audrey

Chad recalls, "Naaman was a big powerful, respected commander, but he had leprosy, a skin disease that nobody in his time had ever been healed of. Naaman heard about a spokesperson for God named Elisha, who could potentially heal him of his leprosy. With his whole entourage, Naaman intended to buy his healing but, through his servant, Elisha refused his money and told him to simply immerse himself in the Jordan River seven times."

Through the prodding of one of his men, Naaman eventually discarded his pride and his armor, humbly trusted the Word of God and dipped in the river seven times. Just as the prophet said, Naaman was healed instantly.

Greg then related Naaman's leprosy to the human condition of sin, and asked, "What type of person are you on the outside, when in reality you are being slowly destroyed? Sin is a corrosive thing that leads to death, because the Bible says, 'The wages of sin is death'.

"But if you put your faith in Jesus, like Naaman turned to the water and humbly trusted in God's power, then you have God's promise in the Bible that He will 'remember your sin no more'. Your sin will be 'blotted out'; 'removed as far as the east is from the west'."

“For the greatest love and self-sacrifice, look at the cross”Chad continues, "March 14, 2007, I decided to publicly renounce my sin, to humble myself and put my faith in Jesus to save me from my sin. I was changed. I didn't want that [beer] keg anymore."

By his first deployment in Iraq, Chad was not "out for blood". Instead, he explains: "There's evil men out there with intentions of harming other people. They want to put suicide vests on others, not themselves. They put them on mentally handicapped people and push them out there."

However, he adds, "Freedom isn't free – it costs some men their life."

Seal of God
Chad’s published memoir
Seal of God

Now renowned as a keynote speaker, Chad illustrates this price of freedom in reference to US Navy SEAL Mike Monsoor, who jumped on a grenade rather than save himself, to save fellow SEALs on a crowded roof. He also relates that his mentor Scott went to Iraq "for the sake of freedom".

Chad explains that these soldiers simulate for us today what Jesus did in becoming a man and dying on a cross 2000 years ago.

"Jesus said, 'Greater love has no-one than this, than one who lays down his life for his friends.' These soldiers help to simulate for us what happened on the cross. For the greatest love and self-sacrifice, look at the cross.

"Just like that grenade was not Mikey's problem, sin certainly was not Jesus' problem. It says of Jesus, 'For [God the Father] made Jesus [God the Son] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become [by faith in Him] the righteousness of God'. At the cross, Jesus Christ took the blows of our sin so that we could have freedom from the eternal consequences of our sin."

Using a Navy SEAL's parachute as a final analogy, Chad explains faith in Christ: "When I pull that rip cord, I've got a sound sensible faith that it will save me from the consequences of hitting the ground and dying. Put that same type of trust in Jesus Christ – trust that His death on the cross has saved you from the eternal consequences of sin."

Anyone out there? >>