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POWELL, WYO. — A U.S. soldier born in Powell and raised in Cody has drawn national media attention for his continued military service — even after several close calls with life-threatening explosions.
During the July 4 episode of the ABC news program “Nightline,” host Terry Moran described Army Staff Sgt. Chad Joiner as “one of our American heroes” and “a man amazingly still on the front lines, despite repeatedly cheating death.”
The piece by Muhammad Lila highlights a staggering statistic: roadside bombs exploded underneath Joiner’s vehicles seven times during his three deployments in Iraq.
“God has a plan for me. There’s an obvious reason why I’m still here,” Joiner, 31, told “Nightline.” “I don’t know 100 percent what that reason is, but He obviously has something in store for me.”
Joiner left Northwest College and joined the military immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his mother, Mickey Joiner of Cody, told the Powell Tribune.
More than a decade later, despite the bombs and subsequent brain injuries that required rehabilitation, Sgt. Joiner continues to serve with the Army. He’s now in Afghanistan.
Nightline’s Lila followed Joiner and other soldiers on a 10-hour patrol in an eastern part of the country on what was Joiner’s 1,129th day of living in a war zone. The soldiers that day scoured a highway and the surrounding Afghan countryside for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“That’s right: The man who survived seven IEDs is out with us, looking for more,” Lila narrates in the seven-and-a-half-minute piece.
The video depicts the ever-present danger in the region: burned-out shells of vehicles used to carry suicide bombs, gunfire and — on the very patrol “Nightline” observed — the discovery and controlled detonation of an IED.
Lila says you might think of Joiner as an adrenalin junkie, “but the more you get to know him, the more you get to realize he’s about as normal as you can get.”
Some footage of Cody, where Joiner grew up, is shown briefly.
“I love how everybody knows everybody,” Joiner says of his hometown. “It’s just a great home feeling.”
He also told “Nightline” he’s looking forward “more than anything in the world” to coming back to the U.S. and to his wife and young child.
Mickey Joiner said it was difficult to watch parts of the report, specifically when it shows Sgt. Joiner on foot — outside the blast protection offered by a vehicle.
“I really just can’t quite watch that,” Mickey Joiner said.
One bit of the program — showing that Sgt. Joiner was patrolling along the highway between Kandahar and Kabul Afghanistan’s two largest cities — was news to his mother.
“I (had) asked him, I said, ‘Now, you’re not in Kandahar or Kabul are you? Because that’s really rough stuff,’” Mickey Joiner said. “He said, ‘Oh Mom, I’m on missions, I’m on missions.’
“Come to find out, that’s exactly where he was,” Joiner said. “And my heart just dropped.”
As a “selfish” mother, Mickey Joiner wants her son home. She praised the “Nightline” piece as “excellent” and said it captured the true Chad Joiner.
“We’re proud of him,” Mickey Joiner said. “But he always says, ‘I’m not the hero, mom; it’s the guy that didn’t make it home.’”