As president and founder of the Mighty Oaks Foundation and Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, Chad Robichaux travels the country holding workshops for veterans—particularly those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and their families. Robichaux’s story shows why he’s the right person for such an important job. When he was 14, Robichaux’s brother was shot and killed, and his father abandoned the family. Robichaux dropped out of high school and did roofing jobs until he joined the Marines in 1993. He got his GED when he graduated from boot camp, but he didn’t sign up for the G.I. Bill because he didn’t think he’d ever go back to school.
He was wrong. At age 17, Robichaux became Force Recon Marine, one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ special operation-capable forces that provide essential military intelligence. He ended up being second in his class academically. It was while he was in the Marine Corps that he realized—after facing a “giant pile of books” and a “lot of memorization”—that he could pursue an advanced degree.
Chad Robichaux recognized by the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps at a Mighty Oaks Warrior event.
He deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and was ultimately deployed eight times. While serving, he earned his associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees—all online. “Earning my M.B.A. from NYIT was a big achievement,” he says. “I am the first college graduate in my family, and I use the knowledge I learned every day in the workplace.” After serving as a Marine in Afghanistan for years in special operations, Robichaux faced a different kind of obstacle. “PTSD ended up overtaking me,” he says. “I had a final meltdown. I felt like I was dying and my face and limbs would go numb. I was in such a bad mental state, I couldn’t go through a day of work.” When he returned to the states in 2007, the PTSD came with him, along with anxiety and depression. Robichaux started a successful MMA and jiu-jitsu school and became a world-class competitor and Pro MMA Champion, but personally he “was a train wreck. My life started plummeting inside.”
After several rocky years, Robichaux found a mentor—from his wife Kathy’s church—and he began the difficult process of recovery. “My failures and crashing allowed me to rebound,” says Robichaux. “I’m very grateful for that.” Robichaux is very aware of how dedication to helping others saved his own life. He also never forgets this statistic: Roughly 20 vets commit suicide every day. Mighty Oaks Warriors is trying to change that. An excerpt from the organization’s mission statement reads, “Through instructional sessions, camaraderie, and team-building activities, our programs teach Warriors to overcome the past experience and move forward into a life of purpose.” For Robichaux, that sentiment continues. “I’m still growing,” he says, “and I continue healing and discovering.”