God has a plan and purpose for your life.
If you have breath in your lungs, God could use you. It's going to take boldness and it's going to take a faith that knowing that regardless of your situation, regardless of how you feel emotionally right now, God will use you. If you need encouragement to get through a difficult situation in your life, today's Focus on the Family broadcast is for you.
Stay with us. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, today's guest is Chad Robichaux, and he's a former Marine with Special Forces who did eight tours in Afghanistan. Eight tours! I mean, man, that is amazing. He's the founder of the Mighty Oaks Foundation that serves military veterans, and he recently was honored by Glenn Beck with the Bonhoeffer Angel Award, which is given to people who speak for those without a voice and act in the face of evil.
And you'll hear how Chad did exactly that today. It's a great presentation from Chad Robichaux speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of students at Liberty University on today's episode of Focus on the Family. I want to start off with a story from one of my times earlier in Afghanistan. I was a force recon Marine. I come from a long generation of military members in my family. Back 80 years in World War II, Korea, in the Marine Corps, my family has 53 years of service in the Marine Corps. My father served in Vietnam.
Thank you. I was a force recon Marine. I did eight deployments to Afghanistan, and both my sons were Marines. So for me, as a force recon Marine, I got to go on what's called a JSOC task force, a Joint Special Operations Command Task Force, and I had a very unique job. My job was an AFO, and a lot of you may not understand what an AFO is. The best way I know how to describe it is kind of like being undercover, like a cop, but there's no undercover in the military.
But if there was, that's what an AFO is. You get to work with local nationals. For me, I got to work with the Afghans, and usually with one of the team members or just with local nationals.
You get to grow a big, giant beard and live like the locals and eat like the locals. I loved that job, and for me, like living with the Afghan people and understanding who the Afghan people were, I became very close to the Afghans I worked with. One Afghan in particular, his name was Aziz, and Aziz and I not only worked together as my interpreter, but he became my friend. When I was out on operations, Aziz went out with me, the two of us.
When I was not on operations, I was at home. I lived with his family. I played soccer with his kids. I ate dinner with his family. He became very close to me. In fact, he saved my life on multiple times.
We became very bonded. This particular day, I want to tell you about myself, Aziz, and a friend of mine who's a Navy SEAL. The three of us were in a vehicle called a Toyota Prada, which is like a Toyota 4Runner. We were driving in the eastern side of the capital city of Kabul, which is on a road called Jalalabad Road. As we were on Jalalabad Road, I looked in my rearview mirror, and I seen a vehicle full of guys that looked like the Taliban. It was a Hilux pickup truck, and it had a bunch of guys with big, giant beards, tribal clothing. They all had AK-47 assault rifles, and even had an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. They looked like they were up to no good, and there was a lot of them in this truck.
We had a joke. How many Taliban can you fit in a pickup truck? The answer is one more. They pile in the truck. They hang out the sides.
Usually, there's one sitting on the roof. I'm like, man, I hope these guys aren't following me because I didn't want any trouble. I did a technique. I learned a training called deviating your routes. I'm on Jalalabad Road to make a right and start to make the block, and they continue to follow us. When I got back to my original route and turned right again, I realized they were, in fact, following me, and what it also confirmed to them was that I knew they were following me. So it started a pretty aggressive pursuit. They started trying to run us off the road, and I made it to this major intersection called Masood Circle. And when I got to Masood Circle, all of a sudden, the traffic began to congest and stop, and I didn't really have anywhere to go.
Somehow, that truck full of Taliban guys got up in front of us about 20 yards and blocked us in and created a roadblock situation. I remember a few guys jumped out the back of the vehicle, but probably my most vivid memory was the passenger stepping out. You could tell he was in charge. As he stepped out of the vehicle, he turned around and shut the door behind him. He was really, really calm and cool.
He turned and looked at me. He had his AK-47 in one hand, and with the other hand, he gave me a signal to stop my vehicle. A really bad situation. In my training experience, this is called being stuck on the X. The X is an ambush site.
It's a kill zone. A couple of rules you learn in training about the X is, rule number one, you have to be able to recognize that you're on the X. You've got to know you're in a bad situation.
Rule number two is pretty easy. You have to get off the X. You've got to move or something bad is going to happen. And I'm so thankful for military training because I actually trained for this scenario before. It's a roadblock situation. You execute a ramming technique.
I did it before in tons of times and trainings. And so I hit the guys, I aim my vehicle towards theirs. And probably one of my favorite memories of Afghanistan is when I smashed into that vehicle was little Taliban guys flying out the back of that truck.
A few of them jumped right before I hit it. That truck spun out of the way. But there was one more obstacle. As that truck spun out of the way, there was a pathway, kind of like this aisle right here. Like a perfect pathway to get off to an intersection.
But there was one more obstacle. There was like this hundred year old policeman and he has perfect military uniform on. If you've ever been to a third world country, you know, traffic cops like on intersections, they like own that intersection.
That's their whole life. And he was like proud of this intersection. He's blowing his whistle.
He's like taking charge. He's telling me to stop. And I wasn't going to stop. I was going to run him over to get out of there. And when he saw I was going to run him over, he jumped on my team.
He actually blew his whistle, gave me a thumbs up and smiled at me and started stopping cars and directing traffic and got us off the intersection and probably saved our lives that day. So, you know, I don't know what those bad guys wanted on Masood Circle that day. But I know this. If we would have stopped on Masood Circle, if we would have stopped on X, we probably would have put up a heck of a fight.
But the truth is, we likely would have been killed or taken. I'm here this morning to tell you, you don't have to go to Afghanistan to be stuck on X. There's going to be times in our life and all of our life that we're going to find ourselves stuck on X. Maybe it's an ambush in Afghanistan or maybe it's sin in our life. Maybe it's an addiction. Maybe it's a passivity or fear or just a hardship in a time of depression, a time of hardship in your life.
It could be many things. The question in life isn't if you're going to find yourself on the X, because you will, I promise you. It's when you do, what are you going to do? Now, in my life and experience and the work that I do now, working with thousands of military warriors, what I really discovered is it really comes down to one thing, and that's a choice. A choice that we make to decide if we're going to stay on an X and we're going to step forward in a life and promise that God has for us. And God does have a promise for us.
He didn't just create us, but He created us, each and every one of us, for a purpose. Jeremiah 20 and 11 says, for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and to give you a future. That promise that God has is not contingent upon the hardships of your life.
Hardships will come. What that promise means is when those hardships come, when you find yourself on the X, if you trust and believe in God's promise, you're going to have the ability to get off the X and to move forward. If I could fast forward a few years for me from that moment in Kabul, Afghanistan, I came home from my eighth and last deployment, and I had found myself on the X again. This time, however, I didn't follow those two simple rules. I didn't recognize that I was on the X. I probably didn't want to because of my pride or shame. And because of that, I couldn't make that second decision to get off the X. And I chose, emphasized I chose to stay there for a period of almost three years, and it almost cost me everything in my life. It began for me with anger and frustration from my time in Afghanistan, from burying 15 friends and seeing the atrocities that the Taliban inflicted on the Afghan people, the oppression of the people, the stuff that would happen, the sexual assault of little boys and little girls. I just really began to have a lot of hate in me, and that frustration came home with me.
I became really a tyrant to my family, really verbally abusive to my family, yelling at my wife and children, slamming doors, breaking things, just being just not a very good person. Eventually, that anger and frustration manifested for me in the physiological symptoms, where my arms would go numb, my face would go numb, I'd feel like my throat was swelling shut and I couldn't breathe. These are signs of panic attacks.
I didn't want to get help or reach out to anyone because I figured the special operations guys in my team would think I was weak. The only way I really know how to explain the level of panic attacks I was having is if you were in a swimming pool, chained to the bottom, and you were drowning to death. Imagine a level of panic you would have seeing the surface of the water and you just want one breath of air, but it never comes, but you also never die. You're in that state of panic 24-7. That's the level of panic I was in, and the medicine they gave me made me feel worse. I thought it was going to kill me, and some medicine made me feel like a zombie.
I didn't want the medicine. I also felt ashamed because, for me, I had worked my whole life to get where I was. It was like if I played football and worked my whole life from Little League all the way up to the NFL and made it to the Super Bowl, which would never happen because I'm 5'3", but you get the point, right? I worked my whole life to get there, and when it came to the game-winning play, I had failed. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed, and I felt like I could not be used moving forward, and my wife at my concert tried to find something until it snapped me out of this situation, so they talked me into getting those mats and doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and when I got in those mats for the first time, I felt like I found a cure because you can't think about Afghanistan and training. Your buddy's going to beat you up, right? You have to be focused, but you could take something that's good for you, and you could abuse it, like a medicine for being sick, and you could abuse it, and that's what I did with jiu-jitsu.
Don't get me wrong. I still love jiu-jitsu. I used it like climbing on a bottle of pills or alcohol.
That's what I did with jiu-jitsu. I never got better, and I witnessed a three-year downward spiral, which ended in me continuing to deal with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger towards my family, taking out of the people I love most, ultimately ended in an affair on my family, and me and my wife and kids sitting down and deciding we would divorce and sell our home. We filed for divorce. We moved in two separate apartments with 12-month leases.
We were pretty committed to that. My wife had a very different reaction to me. She went into a church, and she began to pray for me. You know, God, let me see Chad the way you see Chad. Let me love Chad the way you love Chad.
Let me forgive Chad the way you forgive Chad. That's when my wife would pray for me when I was betraying my family. Meanwhile, I went to this apartment.
I fought this big fight on Strike Force on Showtime. About three months, I was separate from my family. When that fight was over and I won this big fight on Showtime, I found myself home in my apartment by myself, and this thought came over me of how much pain I brought my family through. And I had this thought that maybe my family would be sad without me, but they would be better off.
Right? Maybe my family would be sad, but they'd be better off. That same hopeless thought finds a home in the hearts of over 20 veterans every single day and so many more outside the veteran community.
In the last two years, if you don't know, the National Suicide Hotline has been up 1,000%. So if you're feeling depressed, if you're feeling hopeless, you're not alone. The world is in a very difficult place right now, and you can't do it alone. I tried to do it alone, and that thought came over me, and maybe that thought hit some of you. Maybe my family would be sad without me.
Maybe my loved ones would be sad without me, but the world would be better off if I just end it, and I made a decision to take my life. Wow. Chad Robichaux, on Focus on the Family. You can see how Chad became a force for good in his book, Saving Aziz. We've got that here at the ministry, and we'll send that out.
Please donate generously as you can. The link is in the show notes. Let's return now to more from Chad Robichaux. And when I put that gun to my head, I would see it play out like who was going to find me, and the only person that had a key to my apartment at that time was my oldest son, Hunter.
He was 13 years old at the time. And the thought of him coming to find me was enough to pump the brakes. But I was in such a dark place that the next day I was back at it trying to build up the courage to do it again. And there was one morning I was in that closet with a pistol in my hand, and I heard a knock on my door, and I wasn't going to answer it, but when I heard my wife Kathy's voice, I panicked. I went to the door, and I started an argument with her. I was so mad, this may sound weird, but I was so angry that she was there interrupting me, killing myself. I began to yell at her and berate her, and she's not a very calm person, by the way, but in this moment she was totally calm, and she asked me a question that radically changed my life. She asked me how I could do everything I did in the Marine Corps. We met when we were 17 and 18, so she saw me become a recon marine and go through that process.
If you don't know, it's 80% attrition rate to make it in any special operations. She saw me do that. She's like, how could you do all of that, and when it comes to your family, you'll quit.
And I don't know about you guys, especially young men, but there's no more single cutting word to me than to be called a quitter, and she was absolutely right. I've been successful at professional things in my life, but when it came to the most important things, being a husband, being a father, being that young 17-year-old kid that went to Marine Corps boot camp and raised his hand and said I wanted to do something important with my life, and quitting all those things including my own will to live, and I made a radical decision in that moment to get back in the fight. I didn't know how to do it, but I knew I couldn't do it alone, and I knew I couldn't do it with the people I was surrounded by, and so I asked my wife, is there someone at this church that you're going to that could help hold me accountable? And I met a man named Steve Toth who happened to be on call at the church.
He wasn't in the military. He wasn't an MMA fighter, but as I met with him, he had all the perfect words to help me. I had actually written a plan of how I was going to fix my life because I wanted him to show it to my wife to win her back, and I was pretty impressed by it. I was probably pretty bold, like confidently slid it over to him like, hey, check this out.
It's really good. Show it to my wife. And he put his hand on that plan, and he slid it back to me and told me I was going to fail. I remember being pretty offended because I was like, this is a pretty good plan.
You didn't even look at it. You tell him I'm going to fail? What a jerk, right? But he tapped on this paper, and as he said something I'll never forget. He said, if this plan doesn't have anything to do with your relationship with God, I'm not going to waste your time, and I'm not going to let you waste mine. And so I trusted Steve, and I surrendered my life to Christ, and beyond that decision Steve mentored me for an entire year in biblical living. And what that really meant for me was really the things that I was dealing with, the anxiety, the panic, the anger, those things didn't just go away, but the way I responded to them was different because now I have biblical principles in order to make better decisions with. And what I discovered through the process, which may seem pretty simple but to me was pretty profound, was that all these bad things that happened to me in Afghanistan in my childhood, I shared some of them with you, all these things as bad as they were, those things didn't lead me to be in that closet with a pistol in my hand at rock bottom. What led me there were the choices that I made in response to those things, and now I can intentionally choose differently because of the truth of God's word. And as I began to intentionally apply that in my life, I realized this cliche phrase, but it's so powerful I didn't have to let my past define my future. I could choose a different future moving forward. I didn't have to remain in that brokenness.
I could still do great things in this world, and now for the kingdom of God. And I made a pretty profound decision to be intentional about that. I started calibrating my life to that, and through that I found restoration in my brokenness, in my marriage. I've been married 26 years now, amazing relationships with my three children.
Thank you. I found hope again, and ultimately I found what I think all of us seek in life, and that's purpose. We have to have purpose in life regardless of what we've been through, regardless of not just what was done to us, but regardless of our failures in our life because we're all going to fall on our face and fail.
It's just part of life. When we get back up and we get off the X and we move forward because God has a plan, a promise for you, if you still have a breath of your lungs, God still has something for you to do. And in realizing that, I found that purpose again. Mark Twain says one of my favorite quotes about purpose, the two most important days in a person's life are the day that they're born and the day that they found out why. When I realized that God still had a plan for my life, I found out the why. And it was sharing what I discovered with others, to be here to share that story with you, to realize that we don't have to remain in our brokenness.
We don't have to stay on the X. We can trust God's promise and we can move forward and do amazing things for the kingdom. And I felt a deep burden on my heart at that time to share that story with other veterans.
It was like if I was dying of cancer and Steve Toth gave me the cure through God's word, I didn't want to keep that to myself. I felt obligated to share it with others. And so that manifested in the founding of Mighty Oaks Foundation. And over the last 11 years, the most amazing people have come around me. God just orchestrated this most amazing foundation. I've been able to speak to 250,000 active duty troops on bases around the world.
I go to Marine Corps boot camp every quarter. Thank you guys. So as I'm doing all that, I thought, man, you know, God's really given me a second chance here, simply because I'm pursuing his word, pursuing what he has for me. And I thought that would be the end of it. But God brought another opportunity in my life when I realized that the president of the United States, President Biden, was going to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan.
I could really get into details of that, but I won't get into details of what mistakes were made. But I will say this. Aziz, my friend that I told you about when we began here, was still there. His wife and six kids were still there. He's my friend. He saved my life.
I could not leave my friend there. I went through a series of planning of how to get him out. I put together several team members, 12 of us, all from the special operations community. And we made a plan to go get Aziz, his wife and six kids.
And we had a lot of experience in our team. And as we started planning, one of my teammates said, hey, there's 3,500 orphans in this orphanage. If we can't get just Aziz and his family, we have to get them too. And we kind of paused for a moment and said, there's a lot more people than Aziz there needs help. And we have the ability to do this. We have the passion to do it.
Let's get as many people as we can. And so we went to the UAE government, and the UAE government gave us two C-17 planes, which are the big military planes. They gave us a place to set up our operations center. They gave us a humanitarian center to house people that we would evacuate. And we went into Abu Dhabi to set that up. We put a team on the ground at HKIA airport, which is Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where the military was. We worked with the military to be there. And we sort of sent in three-man ground teams out of the wire, out into Afghanistan, because our military was not allowed to do that, and to go rescue people. And we started rescuing Americans, interpreters and their families, women that would be vulnerable, children that would be, God knows what to, the horrible things that Taliban would do to these children.
And Christians that we persecuted, that was who we targeted to get. The first day, we got Aziz, his wife and six kids, we got his family out, and we got about 180 people out. We were like, wow, I can't believe we did that.
The next day, thank you. The next day, we got 800 people out, and then after that, everything became a blur. Our team did not sleep, literally 24-7, because every minute we would stop to rest, we knew somebody's life was going to be in danger or killed, literally, every minute counted. And at the end of the week, at the end of 10 days, when the military was leaving Kabul Airport, we finally, dust finally settled, we realized we had rescued 12,000 people. As the military left, we had knew too much. We knew that despite what the news was saying, the stuff you're seeing on the news, there were not 100 Americans left there. There were thousands still, and I could not leave there knowing what I knew and knowing Americans were still there. The United States does not leave Americans behind anywhere in the world.
This is not a political position either side. America does not do that. I spent my life in special operations, and if one American is behind, even if they were a total bonehead and put themselves in that bad situation, we go get them. We will scorch the earth around them with every bit of military force to get that person and get them out, even if we could lose people. We don't leave Americans behind, and I was not going to leave Americans behind, and none of our teammates were either. So we decided to stay to get those Americans and get our allies that fought beside us for the last 20 years, that had saved my life and saved my American lives, we were going to go get them. And we stayed, and we started flying people out of remote airports, and we got another 5,000 people out, 17,000 total to date. We're actually moving 200 out right now of women that are on Taliban lists, journalists, doctors, teachers, and vulnerable teenage girls that the Taliban are targeting because of their family members or because they're Christians. We're actually moving them as we speak right now. I have two team members there. A lot of Afghans that are persecuted moved to a place called the Panjshir Valley, and as they moved there, they didn't know how to cross the border to get out because it's not like our borders, the mountains are so intense there, 25,000-foot peaks. You could spend a week getting through a valley, and then you get to the end, and you're going to run into a river or a Chinese checkpoint or a Taliban checkpoint.
So I needed eyes on the other side. So myself and an active duty Marine friend of mine, his name is Dennis. He's a force recon Marine. The Marine Corps actually let him come with me, and the two of us went into this neighboring country.
I won't say where. And we went onto the border, and in 10 days, we did 90 miles of border reconnaissance, 170 kilometers of border reconnaissance, and we built routes through providing information of how to cross the border and get out. And I can tell you one time specifically, we knew this would be a great route out.
There was a Chinese BMP, which is a mechanized vehicle with a PKM machine gun on top, which is a large-caliber machine gun. And then about 100 meters away was a Taliban checkpoint, and we swam across that river to build those routes out. And I remember thinking, God, what are you doing?
I'm 46 years old. Why the heck am I out here doing this? And I had a conversation my wife and I had as she dropped me off at the airport.
Why would you go back and do this? And I really had a lot of time to think about with God, and I thought, what if it was us? What if it was my wife and kids that were in that situation? What if it was one of you and your family? Would you not hope that someone was coming to get you?
I sure would. And that's what really had motivated our team to do that. I would be praying if we were in that situation that God would send someone to help us. And regardless of what politics are involved and what the governments of the world have chose to do, humans have to do the right thing for other humans.
I want to go back to that message of getting off the X. When we find ourselves in that position, stuck on the X's in our life, the enemy wants us to feel broken and useless. And when I say the enemy, the spiritual enemy. Satan, he wants us to feel broken and useless, like God has no purpose for us anymore.
Whatever you faced makes you unqualified. I felt that way before when I was sitting in a closet with a pistol in my hand. There is no more purpose for me. There's no more reason for me to be here, so much to the point that I don't want to live anymore.
My life is over. I have no more purpose. That's what the enemy wants you to believe, despite what you've ever been through, despite your own brokenness, despite what you feel.
Maybe even right now, today, God has a plan and purpose for your life. If you have a breath in your lungs, God could use you. But to stand up and get off that X, it's going to take courage, it's going to take boldness, and it's going to take a faith at knowing that regardless of your situation, regardless of how you feel emotionally right now, God will use you. But you have to reject passivity, which has been contagious in culture right now, to be weak and stand down and be quiet and not speak up for the hard things, because you're worried about what other people are going to say. And as Christians, as people of God, you have to be the voice of truth, and you have to be bold and courageous to do it. Our generation, when I say our generation, mine, needs your generation to speak up and be bold and courageous for the kingdom of God. Can you do that?
Yeah, you can do that. I challenge you to. God bless you all. Thank you so much.
I appreciate it. What an inspirational message from Chad Robichaux on today's edition of Focus on the Family. You know, Jon, I had a thought as I was listening to Chad's message, and I believe it was from the Lord. If Chad had given in to suicidal thoughts all those years ago, would anyone else have been able to spearhead the rescue of innocent lives that were targeted by the Taliban? Think of that. And as Chad mentioned, over 17,000 people have been rescued from Afghanistan by a group Chad co-founded called Save Our Allies.
What an amazing outcome. So as Chad said, don't just sit on the X. Don't stay in the danger zone. If you're at a critical juncture in your life and you're not sure what to do, get help. Please reach out to us. Our staff would be honored to listen to your story and pray with you, and they can request a call back from one of our caring Christian counselors if your situation warrants it. Please let us provide this free help to you and your family. And if you're in a good place right now but you want to help others through Focus, let me encourage you to do ministry by giving to Focus on the Family. Your donation will help us help others. And when you make a donation of any amount, we'll send you a copy of Chad's latest book called Saving Aziz, How the Mission to Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban.
And we have copies of that here. You can get yours when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, or follow the link in the show notes. And when you're online with us, look for an interview we had with Chad and his wife Kathy, which I think will help you when you hear her perspective on the impact that Chad's military service had on their marriage. Better understand some of those dynamics for military marriages, and you'll hear what changed after Chad became a believer in Christ. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to this Focus on the Family podcast. Take a moment, please, leave a rating in your podcast app and share about this episode with a friend, won't you? You might know somebody who can relate to or benefit from Chad's story. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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