By Jeff Nachtigal Special to the Los Angeles Times
August 7, 2005
Spc. Chris Murphy, 23, Chico CA, Insurance Salesman
The Iraq battlefield behind them, a wounded California National Guard company struggles to adapt to civilian life.
Chris Murphy did what many young soldiers do upon returning home: “I spent about five days drinking.” Then he got down to business.
“I plan on being the youngest millionaire in my company, and retiring my mom in five years,” Chris says. “By 28, I want to be driving a Ferrari and have people coming up and asking me how I got that, and I’ll tell them. I can help them.”
Chris’ tenacity, however, sometimes backfires.
Last summer while still in Iraq, he wrote, with his sergeant’s permission, an account of an ambush that had resulted in the deaths of two soldiers in Company A, including his friend Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey. After it was published on the op-ed pages of the Sacramento Bee and the website http://www.Truthout.com , Chris says, commanding officers began treating him unfairly.
Chris called a lawyer with military expertise. Later, when asked to sign a statement admitting that he was at fault for writing the story, he refused. He said he had to call his lawyer first.
“That felt really good to have a backup,” Chris recalls. “After that, they didn’t mess with me as much.”
But two weeks before his unit shipped home from Mosul, he received an Article 15—a disciplinary mark on his service record—for what he describes as a “disagreement that blew up.”
“Maybe if I hadn’t gone to Iraq and had experiences and went through all those hardships, I wouldn’t have had the same motivation for this,” he says of his new career selling legal insurance. He’s returning to school at Cal State Chico in the fall, but for now he sometimes works seven days a week, building for the future.
Standing next to his ice-blue Mazda Protégé after a lunch with co-workers one afternoon, Chris repeats a line from his lieutenant, something that has stuck with him. “You know, you’re a leader, you just don’t belong here in Iraq,” the lieutenant told him.
“You’re right,” he responded.