Super Senior: Dick Chase

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MARSHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) Dick Chase found his passion -- perhaps even a calling -- later in life. "It's the greatest job I've ever had in my life," he said

Dick Chase

His job is volunteering at the The Water Tower Farm - home of Rhythm of The Rein, a therapeutic riding program for people who have physical, emotional, or social challenges.

People like Kathryne Silbermann, who has had multiply back surgeries. "I'm feeling a hundred percent better than I did," Silbermann said. She used to need a walker all the time -- no more. "I'm now walking around."

Chase loved the program so much he bought a house just around the corner from the farm. A far cry from the first time he stepped into the barn. "I came here dragged, kicking and screaming all the way," he said.

The Marine veteran went through a very dark time. "That young teenage boy, if he only knew," Chase said.

At nineteen he got orders to go to Vietnam. The Marine no sooner landed and he was sent off to battle. "To say I was scared to death would be putting it mildly. I had no idea, it wasn't like the movies," he said. "It was terrible, there were bodies, there were men terribly wounded."

At first, Chase didn't get it, but his luck ran out about a year later.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Where were you hit?
Dick Chase: The first one hit me from the side and came over here, it knocked me down.

He was shot three times. His Vietnam was over. After recovering in a military hospital, Chase came back to New England to start a new life. He married, raised a family and started an electrical business, but at 55 the nightmares started and depression overwhelmed him.

Dick Chase: There were days when I didn't leave the house.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Really, it was that bad.
Dick Chase: Oh yeah, it was that bad. I would literally force myself to go to the bathroom.

Then, on his 57th birthday, he wanted to end the pain. "It had to be better than what I was living," Chase said. "She stopped in, out of the blue." It was his ex-wife. She saw the loaded gun and quickly got him to the VA in White River Junction. They diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dick Chase: Through the years you'd hear about it -- PTSD. I say, 'Oh bull.'
Reporter Joe Carroll: You didn't believe it?
Dick Chase: Oh, suck it up.

He was also skeptical about a program the VA wanted to try -- The Rhythm of the Rein. "Oh yeah, I didn't have anymore faith in this. As I did, the people I was talking down there," he said.

Slowly he got hooked, and the riding helped with his depression. "I can look you straight in the eye, or right in the lens, and tell you that if it had not been this -- the program -- that you and I would not be having this conservation," Chase said.

"There's something emotional about the connection. It's not the same relationship you might have with a dog or a cat," said Rhythm of the Rein's Dianne Lashoones.

The 70-year-old says it's the small victories.

"I know he says he gets a lot out of it, but he gives so much to us," Lashoones said.

Giving life a meaning.

In Marshfield, Joe Carroll, Channel 3 News.