Episodes of The Sport Clips Haircuts Hall of Fame Podcast - Haircuts with Heart featuring the Wiley Family

This episode is with Chris Wiley, a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, and his wife, Samantha. They describe Colonel Wiley's deployment to Iraq, the impact a deployment has on a family, the brain embolism he suffered while in Iraq and Samantha's efforts to fight for his life and for their family once he returned to the States . They also describe how a trip to Sport Clips changed their lives!

Chad Jordan and Wiley Family posing at racetrack

Episode Air Date Guest Name Guest Title Topic(s)
October 18, 2019 Chris Wiley Lt. Colonel, US Army Impact of an overseas deployment and health scare on a military family

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Chad Jordan: All right. Hey everybody, this is Chad Jordan and director of marketing for Sport Clips Haircuts an appreciate everybody being on here listening. We have another edition of our hall of fame podcast and we are in lovely Darlington South Carolina, where ... until he was disqualified, we got to cheer Denny Hamlin on.
He crossed the finish line first. As far as we're concerned, we were in victory lane. We got to celebrate a little technical difficulty malfunction, or whatever with his car after the fact. But we've had an amazing time here at the Darlington Raceway. And yesterday prior to the race, I got to meet this wonderful family.
Well, mom and dad are wonderful, I don't know about the son and daughter. Off camera right now. Actually, they're pretty cool too. Jasmine who will not sing any songs from Aladdin, and Bowen who wanted to show me his big ... he's got a knife I think. He was talking ... Bowen liked the knife. Is it Bowen or Bowie?

Col Wiley: Bowen.

Samantha Wiley: Bowen.

Chad Jordan: Bowen? Yeah. Okay. So he's ready to take on the world, but they got some wonderful kids. But this amazing couple that I met they began to tell me a little bit about their active duty military life. And a story that unfolded that I thought, "Boy, we got to capture this." Especially for so many of our listeners, our Sport Clip stylists, team members and don't realize the impact that they have on a daily basis.
They think they're just cutting hair sometimes, but it's really more than that. So without further ado, I'd like you guys to introduce ... I'd say ladies first, but really I want you to go first. And then we'll save the best for last about that?

Col Wiley: That sounds like a plan.

Chad Jordan: So if you could introduce yourself for me, who you are, where you serve, all that kind of stuff, and then we'll kick it over to your lovely wife.

Col Wiley: My name is Lieutenant Colonel Christopher A.C Wiley. I'm stationed at Shaw air force base, but I'm in the army. We've got a small body there. I used to be a helicopter pilot, used to do a whole bunch of other cool stuff. And I'm not used to telling my own story. I prefer to actually tell other people's stories. But for telling mine, it was my third trip to Iraq.
I was in command, I was in the best shape of my life. I was loving life, everything was fantastic. I just signed for a large amount of equipment as we were getting ready to take over. And walking back to my hooch one night my ankle starts to hurt, which was really weird because I didn't twist anything. I wasn't running anywhere that morning. I didn't do anything.
It just seemed very, very strange. The pain grew incredibly intense throughout the rest of my leg and ...

Chad Jordan: Over the course of hours, minutes immediately?

Col Wiley: Hours. The course of hours.

Chad Jordan: Okay. Yeah.

Col Wiley: And slept and went to see the medics the next morning and they gave me some ... some meds for it. And I went back.

Chad Jordan: They thought you might've twisted it or sprained it and just had so much adrenaline at the time. You didn't ... Okay.

Col Wiley: I couldn't tell you that. No clue what it was. And went ... I took ... it was Sunday, the next day, so it some time off and took a little bit of a nap. Woke up and my sleeping bag was absolutely drenched. And I had this horrendous headache and I ... my ankle was feeling fine, but my head was starting to throb.
I couldn't even, I couldn't even speak above a whisper without having a ... just a crippling headache. Went to see the medics again because it was Sunday and they tell me, "No, you need to come back-

Chad Jordan: Two Tylenol and call me in the morning kind of thing?

Col Wiley: Yup, it was one of those. And I told him, "I was just in here yesterday, I know where the doctor is, get him." And he said, "Tell you what, we'll, we'll check your vitals and if they're normal you're going to have to come back." I'm like, "That's fine."

Chad Jordan: Right. You take that risk.

Col Wiley: It turns out my blood pressure was bottomed out, my heart rate was off the charts high and I was just completely flushed. And temperature was fluctuating and they're just like, "Don't move." So they admitted me into our 24 hour care ward on the other side of the base and put me on various meds. And they figured, "Oh, it's probably just a ... some kind of bacterial infection you got here."
A urinary tract infection," or whatever. And through that my vision started going cross-eyed. And my eyes were still fine, but I couldn't read anything. If you would've given me an eight and a half by 11 sheet of paper with normal 12 font, it would have taken me an hour to read it. Because I couldn't not make sense of it. They found that to be concerning.
So they went and had me do some scans and a few other stuff. And then I came back later for another ... the next day for another followup. And they're asking me, "So how do you feel?" "I feel a little bit better." "Oh good. Because we need to medevac you out immediately. You have something growing on your brain."

Chad Jordan: Oh my gosh.

Col Wiley: That's what I said.

Chad Jordan: And they're able to tell all this just from your blood work? Or did they have any scans?

Col Wiley: They did a scan because ...

Chad Jordan: Okay. They had all this in the field? I mean this is ... and you said Iraq, right?

Col Wiley: This was at Camp Spiker, Iraq. They had some tremendous ... tremendous medical capabilities there because that's where a lot of folks ... if they're getting shot in combat or blown up, they would go there first to get worked on. And then either sent out or return to the field because they got fixed. So it was a high level care.
But it wasn't high enough apparently. They had something ... they were able to find a cat scan to show, "Oh there's something growing in your head." That was the only thing they were able to tell me.

Chad Jordan: Because that's all they knew? Or they weren't able really to disclose?

Col Wiley: That's all they could tell.

Samantha Wiley: That's all they could see.

Chad Jordan: Okay. Okay.

Col Wiley: They needed to send me to someplace else and I thought, "Well that's not cool. Can I go back to my hooch to get my wallet? To get my stuff? To tell people I'm leaving?" "No, you need to leave immediately." I huh ... apparently it was not that great.

Chad Jordan: Let's pause right here. And now we'll bring on your wife who ... because at any point ... Well first of all, hello. Can you introduce yourself and how long you've been married? All that kind of stuff for me real quick.

Samantha Wiley: My name's Samantha Wiley. We have been married 18 ... almost 18 years, and all of those as a military spouse.

Chad Jordan: Wow. Well thank you. I'm going to thank him for his service. I am the son of a military spouse, so ... My mom served faithfully for 22 years as well alongside my father. So thank you. I know ... how many places have you been stationed?

Samantha Wiley: In 18 years, we've been nine locations.

Chad Jordan: Okay. That sounds about right. Every two years. Okay. So you are bearing a tremendous load and the brunt of a lot of what he gets deployed and you have to put up with.

Samantha Wiley: I like to consider myself the one constant in this family.

Chad Jordan: Exactly. Yeah. How amazing.

Samantha Wiley: I'm blessed to stay home and be an at home mom, but instead of just saying I'm just ...

Chad Jordan: Right no way.

Samantha Wiley: I am the household financial, logistical and supply coordinator.

Chad Jordan: Oh, I like that. Oh, that wouldn't even fit on a business card.

Samantha Wiley: I make it.

Col Wiley: In military tradition, commanders have what's called a guide on, a flag, that says where they are. Wherever the guide on is his headquarters, wherever she is home. We can be in a hotel room, right now, this RV is home because she's here.

Chad Jordan: Oh, that's amazing.

Samantha Wiley: And our children, they move around often having to leave friends, leave things they've gotten used to and they've adjusted very, very well. But I like to think some of that's because they know I'm always going to keep things level for them. We keep the right perspective. They make it an adventure as we travel about.

Chad Jordan: And I can tell they know not to get out of line too much, even though they're goofing off camera right now. And they're exploring the RV. Don't put it into park. I mean into drive, leave it in park. So no ... so great. Again on the air force side of things, not the army side of things. I've been there, done that, which is why I love these people so much.
So you are hearing what? When all this is going down in Iraq? Is anybody updating you? Obviously he's in a world of hurt.

Samantha Wiley: I had actually been getting some emails from the time he left. Now our daughter was actually just born in September. He left ...

Chad Jordan: So this is 2008?

Samantha Wiley: Yes. So September of '08 she was born. He left November. Actually, he left October, so she was a month old. At two months old is when I got a call from a doctor in Germany ... because after they got him to Iraq, he had been sending me a few emails telling me, "Hey, I'm not feeling good. I'm going to medic to get checked out." On a Saturday morning at eight in the morning, the phone rings.
And it's a doctor in Germany telling me they're going to be medevacking him to Walter Reed. At the time, I had no idea.

Chad Jordan: Where were you all stationed?

Samantha Wiley: Upstate New York. I had no idea where Walter Reed was, I had to Google it.

Chad Jordan: Just what a mother with a newborn wants to be doing. You've got nothing else going on. You have no emotions, nothing physically happening around your life at that time.

Samantha Wiley: Knowing he was going to be going from Germany to someplace, I didn't know where it was. It's like, how am I going to get there? What am I going to do?

Col Wiley: You didn't know I was going to Germany in the first place.

Chad Jordan: That's what I was saying. Last thing you knew he was in Iraq. So now a doctor from Germany ... I think you're like, "Is this the wrong ... you must have the wrong number?" Yeah, this is ... my husband's in Iraq right now.

Samantha Wiley: Well, and the only thing she could tell me is they found a mass in his brain.

Chad Jordan: How scary.

Samantha Wiley: They didn't know if it was cancerous, they didn't know if it was non-cancerous. They didn't even know if it was just a tumor of unknown substance. They just know there was a mass there.

Chad Jordan: So you get the call and now what? You've got ... let's see, Bowen was three at the time?

Samantha Wiley: He was four at the time.

Chad Jordan: Four? Okay, yeah four and then?

Samantha Wiley: Jazzy was two months old.

Chad Jordan: Okay. And a newborn. And so what do you do? You pack them up, you hop in the car, get in a plane?

Samantha Wiley: Actually God lined things up perfectly. I had contacted ... I had two friends that were retired army. They were 65 at the time and we met them through church. It was Judy and miss Harriet. And I called them within five minutes they were at my house, grabbed both kids and proceeded to take care of them for over ...

Chad Jordan: Wow, get out of here. Angels in disguise.

Samantha Wiley: Over 30 days. They kept the kids with the help of some of our other friends.

Chad Jordan: Two month old? Sheesh.

Samantha Wiley: Did the around the clock, two hour feedings.

Chad Jordan: No way.

Samantha Wiley: Just so two days later I could be in a vehicle headed down to Walter Reed to be at his side.

Chad Jordan: Oh my gosh. And so do you leave Jazzy in New York?

Samantha Wiley: I left Jazzy in New York, left Bowen in New York, because we felt at the time one I had to focus on him. We had friends that loved on them, gave them what they needed that I didn't have to stress. And it kept them in the comfort of the home. And Bowen was still ... he was young to understand but not ... couldn't quite understand. So at least in the care of family friends that he trusted, he was safe.
He felt safe. And I just ... I'd call him every night on the phone and talk to him. I have a picture of her. She was crying the one night just screaming and screaming and screaming. My sister put the phone up to her ear and just my voice, within five minutes she's passed out sleeping.

Chad Jordan: Harriet and Judy, watched them for this month until her family from Pennsylvania could drive up to get the kids and then took over the duties.

Samantha Wiley: Primarily for the holiday, they wanted to bring the family.

Chad Jordan: I guess this is Thanksgiving time ... Christmas ... yeah.

Samantha Wiley: We spent ... I was there from about the 22nd and November until the 23rd of December with him. And after his one surgery they left him out of the hospital so we could go and spend Christmas with the kids.

Chad Jordan: Oh, okay. You pronounce ... I'm not going to ... by the way we transcribe these podcasts so somebody listens and types up. Tell me what it is that you ... because this can be a challenge. Hi transcribers. Get ready to earn your money. What is it that they diagnosed you with?

Col Wiley: It was a culture negative bacterial mitral valve endocarditis that evolved into a septic embolism on the occipital lobe of the brain.

Chad Jordan: Whew! Okay. Sorry for our transcribing company, just charge me double for this one because that in and of itself was amazing.

Col Wiley: So in English, that was a bacterial infection that was growing on one of the valves of the heart. That had grew aggressively enough to spread through the bloodstream up into the brain. It got through the blood brain barrier and started ... it attached itself to the lobe of the brain that controls the vision.
So that's why ... because of the ... it was affecting that, that's why my vision went cross-eyed. And then because of that as well, the pressure on the brain it was causing a headache and everything else.

Chad Jordan: So was the ankle pain related to that? Or do you think that was just ...

Samantha Wiley: It was related in the sense that the mass in the brain was adding so much pressure the brain was misfiring. Because not only ... he forgets to mention he had patches of the infection on his liver and kidneys. That at one point they had seriously talked dialysis.

Chad Jordan: Oh my gosh. [inaudible 00:13:26]. Oh yeah, but they didn't. You didn't have to go that route.

Samantha Wiley: Correct. No.

Chad Jordan: So they do this surgery at Walter Reed ...

Samantha Wiley: They did two surgeons.

Chad Jordan: Okay they did two.

Col Wiley: They did brain surgery in November and then at the end of December ... 10 years ago ... 10 years ago, this December, they did the open heart surgery.

Chad Jordan: So it was a full year later? Is that right?

Samantha Wiley: No.

Col Wiley: It was a month later.

Samantha Wiley: That December ... he was medevacked October ...

Chad Jordan: Of '09?

Col Wiley: I deployed October of '09.

Samantha Wiley: '08.

Col Wiley: No, of '08. 2008 medevacked in November, I got to Walter Reed on November 22nd, the anniversary of JFK's death.

Samantha Wiley: My mothers birthday was the next day when I arrived.

Col Wiley: Surgery ... brain surgery the end of November. And then-

Chad Jordan: Of '08.

Col Wiley: Of '08. And heart surgery December 30th of '08.

Chad Jordan: Okay. So ...

Col Wiley: The day after our anniversary.

Chad Jordan: Okay so you've had 10 years? So it's 11 ... This will be the 11th anniversary of the second surgery.

Col Wiley: I just broke my Cardinal rule, I don't do math in public.

Chad Jordan: Okay. Yeah, no, I was told there'd be no math on this podcast. All right. So you get the surgeries, they got everything out? What happened?

Col Wiley: So there was a ... I was on every kind of Mysin you can think of. So many ...

Samantha Wiley: Four of the strongest antibiotics.

Col Wiley: Broad-band antibiotics. Some of that also screwed at the kidney and liver for a bit. But they replaced the heart valve. Another chunk of that actually ... once they killed the bacteria, floated off through my bloodstream. Went down and blocked some arteries in my leg. So a year later ended up having an arterial bypass ...

Samantha Wiley: Just so we can start working out again.

Col Wiley: Just so I can start working out again. But ...

Chad Jordan: I've never wanted to work out badly enough to go through surgeries. So that is ... incredible, yeah.

Samantha Wiley: Well being active duty he has to stay fit. And he'd get on a treadmill for two minutes and that leg would just cramp up.

Col Wiley: So the ... During the process, once they've gotten me stabilized, Walter Reed then transferred me to a warrior transition unit up in Maryland. And that's where they were ... began, what we call the medical evaluation board process. To be able to figure out what my career is going to look like from there.

Chad Jordan: Right. Because you had been a pilot up to ... a helicopter pilot up to this point.

Col Wiley: And I had actually changed career fields before I deployed, but that wasn't going to take effect until after we got back. So during the med board they were ... at first initially went, well you have to get out of the army because you're not going to be able to fly anymore. But because of the way that God lined things up, it just so happened that, oh don't need to fly.

Chad Jordan: You could pivot.

Col Wiley: So I can ... I can stay in. And that ended up being part of that story. Not even knowing that that was the choice that I was making. But I've always been big on ... I will tell the army when I'm done, I don't want them telling me.

Chad Jordan: How long are you in now? How many years?

Samantha Wiley: 18 years.

Chad Jordan: It's been 18? Because ... As long as you've been married?

Col Wiley: 19.

Chad Jordan: Oh, okay.

Samantha Wiley: He has 19.

Chad Jordan: 19 and a week as a Lieutenant Colonel, right?

Col Wiley: A month as Lieutenant.

Chad Jordan: A month. Okay, all right.

Col Wiley: [crosstalk 00:16:32] beginning of the month.

Chad Jordan: All right. Are you getting used to people calling you Colonel Wiley? Or how's this ...

Col Wiley: Getting used to that, but answering the phone is difficult.

Chad Jordan: Okay. Still major?

Col Wiley: Yeah.

Chad Jordan: Yeah, all right.

Col Wiley: But at Walter Reed ... or at ... we moved up to Maryland to the warrior transition unit, that's where started to go through various experiences. I actually had a great chance to work at the FBI there. But in preparation for that ... and just because that brings us to really the subject matter of why we started the conversation. I needed a haircut.

Chad Jordan: So now Samantha's turn.

Samantha Wiley: No, just ...

Chad Jordan: He needed a haircut, but ... things ... How is he doing at this time?

Samantha Wiley: Truthfully going through everything was a struggle for him. Going from being as healthy as you are ... he was in the best shape of his life. He was out running, he was fit, healthy. And then in a matter of two months, having all of that taken away. Doctors point blank told me if he would have waited one more month, he would have died on me. Or not one month, one week.
That quickly he would have died. The brain was shutting everything down. So to go from being in the best shape of your life ...

Col Wiley: And I had to get pulled back away from the brink of death. That's not a quick and easy process.

Samantha Wiley: It was like having Superman lose his strength. I went having a solid husband that I knew could have my back every minute of every hour, to a man that was just very frail and fragile because his world had been rocked.

Chad Jordan: And we're talking physically or emotionally and mentally?

Samantha Wiley: Physically, emotionally ...

Col Wiley: All of the above.

Samantha Wiley: I would walk ... he wouldn't want to get out of bed in the hospital, but he hated the compression socks. He hated the blood thinners they had them on. I would argue with him, "Get your butt up." "Why? I'm no good." "Get up." And I'd dragged him and we'd walk the lap. We'd do laps, just to keep him moving.

Chad Jordan: A lot of self worth was tied into that physical fitness. Yeah.

Col Wiley: When I left ...

Samantha Wiley: Captain America.

Col Wiley: When I left everything behind ... it was ... oddly symbolic. My wallet was left behind and my [crosstalk 00:18:33], which included my ID card and my ID tags. Every single thing that suit of who I was ... Chris ... Captain Christopher Alan Wiley, company commander for Renegade company was all left behind.

Chad Jordan: Wow. It's like a new identity for you.

Col Wiley: It was ...

Samantha Wiley: Well, he lost identity. He became just a patient in Walter Reed.

Chad Jordan: Poked, prodded, the needles ... surgeries. Yeah.

Samantha Wiley: Yup. I had quite a few nurses after the first couple of days of me being there, starting to get afraid of me. Simply because I knew what my husband could tolerate, I knew what he couldn't and he doesn't need all this added stuff. Added stress. I became his advocate for near well over a month.

Chad Jordan: And we've got now this kind of battered and bruised, especially emotionally, man. His hair hadn't stopped growing. So you needed a place to go get a haircut. And this is where our story started yesterday, where we picked up. And you were telling me why I wanted to unpack a little bit of this. So you ... what did you Google? How did you find Sports Clips?
By the way? It's Sport Clips, but we always ... people always call it Sports Clip, so we always make fun of ourselves

Samantha Wiley: Truthfully, I'm not quite sure how we found you. We started out down at Walter Reed and they would actually ... they had a van that would get us off campus.

Chad Jordan: Yes that's Bethesda, Maryland, right in the heart of D.C, essentially.

Samantha Wiley: Silver Springs area. And I think we stumbled in there the one day and then eventually ended up in Fort Meade with the Warrior Transition Unit. And we always try to find the one barber or stylist that does his hair well. And we're very big on once he finds it, we stay.

Chad Jordan: Loyal for life after that point. Well for a year and a half or two years, until you get PCS somewhere else.

Samantha Wiley: And where you had said earlier about just, people don't realize the impact that they have. I wish I could tell you who the stylist was, which salon it was, but it was one of them. Either Silver Springs or Gambrills, Maryland. Those are the two areas we had lived in. And it was just a simple thing.
We had walked in and when they found out that he was a wounded warrior, they gave him the upgrade, the heated towel the massage.

Chad Jordan: MVP is what we call it, yup.

Samantha Wiley: Yes, the MVP, they gave that to him for free. And to have him walk in there and have somebody do something so simple. They didn't realize how profound it was because it made him feel human again. It brought him back out of the realm of being just a sick patient who couldn't do anything to actually being a man.

Chad Jordan: Well, and think about it for all these times he's in the hospital all these days, weeks, whatever, he's not getting pampered. His life is getting saved, but no one is going above and beyond and make sure he's comfortable. And it wasn't like he was getting mani pedis in there. He was going through the ringer. So now to have someone dote on him and restore that human element.

Samantha Wiley: Exactly. And the stylist ... he may have even seen two or three different ones, but the fact was every time they saw him, they got into conversation. They'd have a big smile on their face, which just brightened his day. And then they'd ask him, truly, "How are you today?" And they cared about what he was going through.
And just that small minor touch, the simplest little thing from the bottom of a military spouse, his wife, it has stuck with me 11 years. Because it was just ... people don't think how significant that is. But when you're struggling with your identity, your self worth, your value.
To know that somebody values you enough to appreciate that, is enough to make that significant impact on the life and change it.

Chad Jordan: Well, I love the story so much and especially because obviously I'm an air force brat. But our founder ... the guy with the cowboy hat that you ... [crosstalk 00:22:43].

Samantha Wiley: Yup, Mr. Gordon.

Chad Jordan: Hopefully you've got to meet Gordon. Air force veteran flew in Vietnam, I mean, he is so passionate about supporting our military. You've seen a bunch of VFW guys walking around. We co-sponsor this race with the VFW for that very purpose to raise funds for them. So certainly military causes families are near and dear to our hearts.
So to be able to make that connection this weekend. How did you guys hear about coming to the race? Who invited you all?

Samantha Wiley: Another military connection.

Col Wiley: So when we got here last year ... because we were PCS to South Carolina last year.

Chad Jordan: From? Where were you before?

Col Wiley: From Fort [crosstalk 00:23:21].

Chad Jordan: Oh really? Okay.

Samantha Wiley: Round two.

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Col Wiley: We had already done a full circle around the United States.

Chad Jordan: They're like, "Where can we send this guy again? Give him some familiarity in his life."

Col Wiley: But came here. And my boss at the time, who's job I have now taken, because I got promoted and he moved to another job. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Galliano. One of his neighbors, used to fly with Gordon.

Chad Jordan: Wow, get out of here. Amazing.

Samantha Wiley: They've lived right behind each other and they talk to each other over the fence.

Col Wiley: So they ... he said ... Rick was getting his tickets and, "Hey, do you want to go to a race? I've never been to a race, but Squeaky next door, he's got these ... yeah, he's got these." And we're like, "Sure. Sounds like fun." And came and the entire experience was ... it was so close to that first experience at Sports Clips of just being welcomed, being ... smiles.
"Thank you for being here." And really we're the ones thanking people for letting us be here.

Chad Jordan: Right. No. No way. It's our job to thank you guys. It's our pleasure, privilege, and even to pull a practical joke on the ... Was that the base commander son? Who was that? Parker?

Samantha Wiley: That's one of the generals.

Col Wiley: That was the [inaudible 00:24:28] chief of staff son, yeah. That was fantastic.

Chad Jordan: So maybe we'll tell the story later. But, we got ... Parker, is that his name?

Samantha Wiley: Yes. Were you there?

Col Wiley: I was.

Chad Jordan: We pulled a quick one on Parker yesterday for stealing a lug nut from the garage and during the tour here in Darlington. But seriously, from the bottom of our hearts, we wanted to let you guys know how special you are. How much we appreciate your service, both of you. And we hope this is annual tradition. I hope you guys are stationed in South Carolina for at least another 18 months.
So we'll see if they let you stick around a little bit longer.

Col Wiley: If not, everywhere is within driving distance if you have enough time, and it's on a long weekend.

Chad Jordan: That's right. No, we want them to keep this up. But both for Colonel Wiley, Samantha, Bowen, Jasmine, we appreciate your guys' service. And carving out some time for us today. This is amazing. So thank you very much.

Samantha Wiley: It's a pleasure to share the time with you as well.

Chad Jordan: Yeah, thank you guys. So thanks everybody for listening. We'll have another edition for you next week. Thanks.