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Cpl. Seth Chimm, Biometrics Automated Toolset supervisor of Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, stands in his computer lab, his favorite place to relax in Rutbah, Iraq, June 23. The 24 year old from Chattanooga, Tenn., was born in a Philippine refugee camp after his parents fled Cambodia. Chimm joined the Marine Corps because he feels he owes the United States for giving his family a home.::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

A life repaid

30 Jun 2008 | Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

In the midst of the 1970s and 1980s, people of Cambodia were enslaved, taken out of their homes to be tortured and slaughtered by orders from the infamous dictator Saloth “Pol Pot” Sar, said Cpl. Seth Chimm, Biometrics Automated Toolset supervisor for Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. Chimm’s family overcame that fear and escaped the wrath of the savage leader to raise Chimm, who became one of “the Few and Proud.”

Born in a refugee camp in the Philippines, Chimm joined the Marines to serve the United States after the U.S. helped save his family.

“America gave my parents a chance to raise me like a normal kid away from all the chaos and violence,” said Chimm, 24, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn. “My family was lucky to be saved like they were, and I wanted to repay America for what it did for us.”

During the time Seth’s family lived in Cambodia, they lived in constant fear of the old regime. Every day they were witnesses to corruption and violence until they knew they had to escape or they would be next.

“My parents spent two years on the run to get away,” said Chimm. “The whole time they suffered to try and get from the bad to the good.”

Seth’s parents finally arrived in the Philippines. With a little help from the Salvation Army and a group from a church, his parents and he were given an opportunity to live in the United States.

“When we first came to America, we were living in a two bedroom house with two other families,” said Chimm. “The Salvation Army gave us clothes and money for food; they were great people.”

The family was living happily together in Chattanooga. His mother and father were both working full time at a rope factory to raise Seth in the home of which they dreamed.

After graduating high school, Chimm attended community college until joining the Marine Corps at age 20. According to him, he felt he had a debt to repay after all the blessings the country had bestowed on his family.

“I wanted to give back to the military of the country that has given us so much,” he said. “I know that someday down the road, I will meet a child kind of like me and help him like so many people helped me.”

Now on his first tour in Iraq, Chimm extended to deploy with Mike Battery to help rebuild the city of Rutbah, Iraq. He currently creates identification cards for the people of the town.

“Chimm is an awesome Marine and person,” said Staff Sgt. Logan M. Johnson, 28, patrol master of Mike Battery from Cleveland, Tenn. “It’s very respectable to put himself in a situation to give back to the United States. He came to Iraq to help how the people of Cambodia should’ve been helped.”

Chimm plans to leave the Marine Corps and return to school to pursue a career in networking when his unit returns to the U.S. Although he is departing, he will never forget how much of an honor it was to serve his country.

“Growing up, I always understood what my parents were talking about when telling stories back in Cambodia,” he said. “The Marine Corps helped me fight to prevent another dictator from controlling the people.”


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