Hero from the Heart of Virginia: James Chalmers

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- He was barely 17-years-old when he enlisted to serve this country. But it was a haunting September day that helped his discover his purpose.

One of the first things you notice about Army First Sergeant James Chalmers is his infectious laugh. The second is his overwhelming love for his family. "I got the greatest parents ever.. my mom may be gone but I thank god for her and thank god for my dad," Chalmers said.

It was that love that led him to the decision to enlist in the National Guard at 17. "I didn't want my parents to have to fork out a hole lot of money to pay for my college," he said.

For nearly a decade Chalmers climbed up the ranks and got an education.

Then he began having a change of heart. "To be honest I was going to get out after my 9th year," he said.

But as the year came to an end, the world as we knew it also did. "When [9/11] happened everything changed, it's like the guard is pretty much active duty too."

Within three months Chalmers got the call to serve on a mission, at the same time he was planning to marry the love of his life.

But, shortly before his deployment Chalmers noticed he was no longer a part of the first mission. "One of my best friends, which I didn't know, he took my place and I didn't find out until after they were gone," he said.

Also, one of the first soldiers Chalmers met, Sgt. Darrell Fuller, took his place so he could get married. Chalmers deployed shortly after his wedding, doing two tours in Iraq. He asks that we continue to keep all the service members and families in our thoughts.

Chalmers has now been in the military for 23 years and he says looking back, he wouldn't change a thing.

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