Well, God didn’t tell me that when my life changed that other things would change. He didn’t tell me that my income, that was now going to drop by about 60%, because of the lifestyle in which we’d become accustomed I would no longer be able to support. He didn’t tell me that we were going to lose our house and, for the first time in our lives, move in to a rental home. He didn’t tell me that the big cars and the big vacations and the condo in St. Martins and all these things that I had amassed would all fade away and I’d move into a rental house, in a lesser community, in a far away county and all that I had amassed would be gone. But I did it, for a year. A solid year. Finally, I said, “God, I’ve got to have some help. You’ve got to do something.” And I said to Janice, “You know honey, this sounds strange but I think God wants me to start a boys’ home.” She said, “What? We’ve never talked about a boys’ home.” I said, “I know but I just really feel like I’ve got this burden to start a boys’ home.” She said, “Well great, start one.”
The next day, I was walking down the street in a place called Manassas, Virginia. And there I was and I looked at a sign and it said “Juvenile Services”. I walked into the Juvenile Services office and there a lady sat and I told her what I wanted to do. And she said, “Oh, you’re just the guy we’re looking for. We’re just getting ready to start one.” I said, “Great, except I want to make it a Christian home.” She said, “You’re not the guy we’re looking for. Go away, we don’t want you.” A couple days later, I got in the mail a piece of paper that had come out of somebody’s trash. It had mustard on it, all crumpled up. It had a hand-written note that said, “Heard you were by. Thought this would be of interest to you.” It was signed Wayne. I opened it up. It would be 5 years before I would meet this guy named Wayne. Five years later I would meet him. I opened it up and I read about this guy named Joe Gibbs, read about this guy named Roger Staubach, and I read about this guy named George Bush. There they were on the cover of this piece of paper.
Joe Gibbs was going to start a boys’ home in Manassas, Virginia, right around the corner from where I was living. Now, Joe Gibbs was at that time the coach of the Washington Redskins. How many of you all have heard of the Washington Redskins, raise your hand? I will take that to mean that you’re a fan. Don’t answer that. When you grew up in Washington, D.C., most likely you were a fan of the Washington Redskins and you were not a fan of that team in Texas whose name I will not utter. And Joe Gibbs was going to meet him, so I went to see this guy named Clark Lawrence. By the way, Clark is a big FCA guy. He is Mr. Wonderful. He is the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He now lives in Nashville. And I went to see Clark and I shared my heart and my story and I told him how much I wanted to be involved in his youth home and Clark said to me, “You can’t be involved.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, we’ve got a builder, we’ve got an architect, we’ve got a designer, we’ve got a land planner, we’ve got an engineer, we’ve got a developer, we’ve got the piece of ground, we’ve got the plans draw. We don’t need you. There’s no room for you.” I said, “Clark, that’s fine but I’m just telling you I need to be involved in this youth home and I think God wants me involved in it.”
A couple months went by. I didn’t hear from anybody. I called Clark up one day and said, “Clark, what’s going on with your youth home?” He said, “Well, we’re having a little bit of trouble getting it through our county.” And I said, “Well look, man, let me help you. Heck, I’m right here in the county. I’m a builder. I know everybody. Let me help you.” He said ok. So we met at the county. We walked in the front door early in the morning. By the time we came out the back door late in the afternoon, Clark had a building permit in his hands. He couldn’t believe it. Man, I was so jacked up. I’d helped get a youth home a permit. He said, “Man, this is great.”
So he called me back later and he said, “Listen, Joe Gibbs is having breakfast and we’d like you to come. He’s heard about what you did.” I said, “What did you say?” He said, “We’re having breakfast with Joe Gibbs and we’d like you to come.” I said, “You said Joe Gibbs is having breakfast and you want me to come?” He said yes. Now, guys, I’m telling you Joe Gibbs to me personally was my real-life hero. He was the guy on the sidelines that coached the Washington Red Skins—the greatest team on earth as far as I was concerned. And I was going to get to meet him. Now, I often don’t tell everybody this but I’ll share this with you. Not only was I going to have breakfast with Joe Gibbs but so was 500 other people, but I don’t tell everybody that. As far as I was concerned, it was just me and Joe!
So I went to the breakfast and all of a sudden—I was standing there talking to someone—and I felt this hand on my shoulder and I turned and looked and there he was, right there, my hero Joe Gibbs. Michael Dean Chadwick, big daddy talking to big Joe. How cool is this! How cool is this! And he says, “Hey man, I’m excited about what you’re doing out there. We really appreciate it. We want you to get on our team.” I said, “Joe, I’ll carry your spit-bucket buddy. I’ll do whatever you want.” He said, “Man, I really appreciate that. I appreciate your attitude.” And I’m sitting there going [panting], “Thank you Joe. Thank you Joe.”
A few days later, Clark called me back and said, “Hey we’re having a meeting. We’d like you to come out and see if there’s some ways you can be involved in the youth home.” Whoo! Man, I took off. I couldn’t wait to be there. Well a few days later they called back and said we’re having another meeting. Whoo! I took off, couldn’t wait to be there. Well, a few days later they called back and said we’re having another meeting. And another meeting and another meeting. These are the “meetingest” bunch of guys you’ve ever met in your life. They didn’t get nothing done but, man, could they have a meeting! Now you have got to remember, the guys that are meeting on this thing are the most powerful people in Washington, D.C. I mean some of the most powerful businessmen because they’re all meeting with Joe Gibbs, this icon of a guy that everybody wanted to be around—and me! I’m thinking, “God, if these guys every find out who I am.”
And so they’d ask me to do some things and I’d help them out or get it done. I was kind of like the worker bee of the group. Everybody else sort of sat around and said, “Hey, I got $27 million today.” “Oh, I got $52 million today.” I got 39 cents! But I would always do it. You know, I’d go get everything done they wanted to get done and they’d come back and we’d all work together and it was kind of going great. And they said, “Hey, how would you like to be on our advisory board?” I said, “Yeah, man, that would be cool. Man, I’d be on your advisory board. I’d advise everybody.” I said I didn’t know what an advisory board was but I wanted to be on it.
So, a few months later, they came back and they said, “You know, we’ve been watching what you’re doing here and you’re doing a great job. We’re really excited about it and we thought you’d like to be on the board of directors”—which was a very special group of people. I said, “Guys, I don’t think you want me on your board of directors. 20/20 might find out about me! It might not be good.” And they said, “Ah, man, we know all about that drug thing and lifestyle and all that. We see how God has changed your heart, man. God has changed your life. You’re not the same guy you were. So, we want you. Really, we want you.” “You do,” I said, “OK.” He said, “Not only that, we’ve been thinking and, you know, we know now that you’ve started your own company and you’re just getting started and you’re living right here. And we’re just getting ready to build this great big, massive, 21 thousand square foot facility. We’d like you to be our builder. I said, “What?” He said, “We want you to be our builder.” Remember, just a few months ago, “You can’t be involved.” Now I’m going to be your builder and I’m on the board of directors.
“Oh, one more thing…” he said. I thought, ok, here it comes. Like, “one more thing…if anybody finds out about you, we disembowel all knowledge of knowing anything about your past and you have to go away”—that’s what I think is coming. And he said, “One more thing…we’ve taken a vote and we have voted you to be the president of Joe Gibbs Boys’ Home.” I said, “Excuse me?” Just 15, 18 months ago I was lying in a ditch. I said, “You have voted me the president of Joe Gibbs Boys’ Home?” And for three and a half years, I served as the president of Joe Gibbs Boys Home.
I mean, I met the President of the United States. I would go to the Kennedy Center and sit in the President of the United States’ box out there in the Kennedy Center. Now the President wouldn’t be there but whoever was in the Kennedy Center in the Presidents’ box, people would look at him. I’d walk out there and go, “How ya doin’? Good to see you tonight! Hey, how ya doin’?” My wife would sit there, dying, knowing that I’m stealing stuff with Presidential emblems on them. I’m sitting on the Presidential throne in the bathroom going, “The president’s butt sits here man!” And this is so cool and I’m thinking, “God, this is unbelievable!” And then for three and a half years you would hear stories of the youth home and there would be pictures of Joe Gibbs and pictures of me. I was always associated with Joe Gibbs and my fame just sort of soared in Washington. Everybody knew who I was. My company just took off and I was making money again and hand over fist. We were building a big home and we were having the time of our life and everything was going great.
And I wish I could tell you that, man, you get hooked up with Jesus and whooo! It ain’t nothing but a party! And it was for a long time. And then something happened called a recession. Now, I didn’t know what a recession was. I figured the root word was recess. How bad could it be? Oh, but it was bad. And it got worse and it got worse and it got worse. And all this money and things and rental properties and cars and all the things from the last 4 or 5 years that I had amassed were starting to disappear. Banks, savings and loans, which I was doing business with, were taken over by this thing called the RTC. People from Houston were moving to Virginia and they were going to work in banks and they didn’t know me from Adam and they were calling me up and bring me in their office and saying, “You owe us such and such a million dollars and we want the money.” And I said, “Hey, my loans not in the rears. All my interest is paid. I’m current on every bill I owe.” They said, “We don’t care. This is a demand note and we demand that you pay it now.”
And everything started to disappear. And like in the book of Haggai where he says you’re pockets have holes in them and you couldn’t keep it, like grabbing handfuls of sand and you can’t hold on to it. And it was all disappearing and it was just getting worse. Everyday I’d try to figure out, “God, how do I stop it? How do I stop it? It’s going to be all gone again.” We had to sell our house. We had to move into another rental home. I couldn’t believe it. It was all gone. I watched a financial statement go from worth millions and millions of dollars to owing millions and millions of dollars.
And right smack dab in the middle of equity meltdown, my sister-in-law—who by the way, I don’t like, didn’t like, and will not like—decides to up and get married. I said, “Who cares? Except, she’s going to marry my nephew.” Which means, my nephew is now going to become my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law’s going to become my niece. And now they want to have double Christmas presents. I said, “My God, people think we’re from West Virginia!” I had to find out if it was even legal! And my poor father-in-law thought, “Oh my God, another Chadwick!” Well, we couldn’t stop it. They were going to get married. My wife said, “Listen, we’re having the rehearsal dinner Friday night. We’ll go to the rehearsal dinner. I want you to make a little skit up. It will be a good time.” Heck, it was like a family reunion. All of my wife’s family was there because her sister was getting married. Well, all of my family was there because my brother’s son was getting married. I mean it was incestuous, I’m telling you! But it was happening.
So on that Friday night—it was a terrible Friday night—my family showed up at my office, my wife, two daughters and my son Michael. And as they came to my office that night, they asked me was I going to be ready to go pretty soon. And I said, “Well, it’s going to take me a little while to go but you guys go ahead and I’ll come along.” Michael said, “Ok mom, you go ahead. I’m going to stay here and go with daddy.” She said fine. And I said, “Well, I’m going to be a while. Michael you ahead and go with your mom and sisters.” He said, “Daddy, can I please go with you?” And I said, “No, you go with your mother.” He said, “Daddy, daddy, can I please go with you?” The truth is, I wanted to smoke a cigar that night and I didn’t want anybody in this world to know that I had smoked a cigar, certainly not my son. “Michael,” I said, “You go with your mother and I’ll see you over there in a little while.”
About an hour went by. They had called me from my wife’s van. They had gone from Maryland to Virginia. The phone rang. I answered the phone. My wife Janice said, “Mikie wants to talk to you.” I said, “Ok, put him on.” He said, “Daddy, I called to tell you that I love you.” We were a very kissing, hugging family. I didn’t find that to be particularly odd. I said, “Son, I love you too.” He said, “No, no, no dad. I want you to know that I…love…you.” I said, “I love you too Michael. I’ll see you in a few minutes. You take care of your sisters. I’ll be right along.”
A few minutes later, I packed up and headed on over to Woodrow Wilson bridge and drove into Maryland, found the church where the wedding rehearsal was taking place. I pulled in to the church. I walked in. There were people everywhere, singing, having a good time. “[singing] This is the day. This is the day. That the Lord hath made. That the Lord hath made.” I mean, man, this is making me sick. I said, “All this good, happy, jolly time going on. I just want to go somewhere and eat.” About that time, this lady walks into the back of the church and she’s standing there and she’s kind of antsy and she’s kind of walking back and forth and she’s kind of wiggling around. I’m looking at her and I don’t recognize her but I figure, well, she’s probably one of my idiot sister-in-law’s friends. I don’t know who she is.
Finally, she says, “Is there anybody here named Chadwick?” I said, “Sweetheart, the Chadwicks are marrying the Chadwicks. We’re all Chadwicks. What can I do for you?” She said, “There’s been an accident. Can you come?” I said, “Well, where is it?” She said, “It’s right out in the front of the church.” I said, “A couple of you all go out that door there. I’ll go out here and drive my car around. I have a car phone in case I need to call for some emergency help.” I drove my car around and as I got to the entrance of the church there was a car about 50 or 60 feet from where I was standing. Before I ever got out of the car, I called 9-1-1. They said the accident had been reported, thank you, help is on its way. Rain was just pouring.
As I got out of the car, I started to walk over and I saw my mother kind of staggering and then I realized my mom had been in the accident. I thought, “God, no. I hope she’s ok.” So I walk over to the car and as I was walking over I could see that my step-father was pinned in the car and that some guys were trying to work on him and kind of help him out a little bit. He looked like he was ok too. Then I started walking around and I saw a whole bunch of other people, about 50 or 60 feet away in this group and I thought, “I wonder what they’re doing?” And I walked over and I’m walking and all of sudden I tripped over something and I looked down and I saw a shoe lying on the ground, a little shoe. And I thought, “That’s strange.” And I reached down and I picked it up and I kind of chuckled and thought how odd.
I kind of focused on this other group that was about 50 or 60 feet away and I started to walk towards them. And I saw my older brother, the father of the young man that was getting married, walking towards me. And I could see this look in his face. I said, “Lloyd, what’s going on over there?” He said, “Stop Michael, don’t go over there.” And it donned on me that I had not seen little Michael. I hadn’t seen him when I got to the church. I hadn’t seen him after I’d been at the church and I hadn’t seen him in this crowd. I made my way over. Just as I got to the crowd, I pushed them out of my way and a couple of guys grabbed me and I just moved them out of my way. I looked down and I saw a little boy lying on the ground, 75 feet away from where the accident took place. I thought, “How did Michael get here? He couldn’t have been in that car. Somebody must have just knocked him over as they were coming out of the building.”
We rolled him over and my sister-in-law sat there who was a nurse and the brother of the young man getting married is an emergency medical technician. And all of a sudden I realized they were doing CPR on my son and one was blowing breath into his mouth and the other was working on giving him a heartbeat. They called for a helicopter. The rain was so bad they couldn’t bring in a helicopter. We had to wait for an ambulance. I don’t know why I didn’t get in the ambulance that night and ride to the hospital with Michael. Maybe I thought that I couldn’t do anything or maybe I thought I had to take care of everybody else. I don’t know why. I will tell you this, there is never a day that goes by that sometime in the morning quiet time in the chapel of my heart I don’t say to myself, why didn’t you get into that ambulance?
Everybody rushed to the hospital. We rushed Michael to the hospital. Everybody was feverishly working on him. The doctor came out to me and he said, “Mr. Chadwick.” He didn’t have to say anything else. I said, “Take me to my son.” I said, “Take me to my son.” We walked down this little corridor by these little rooms that were divided by curtains. I walked around this one little curtain and there was a little gurney and on that little gurney was a little boy lying there with a little blanket pulled up to his chest, looked like he was sleeping. I said, “Leave us.”
I walked into Michael’s little room there and I said, “Mikie, daddy wants you to get up. Michael, you got to get up.” I reached down and I pulled that little boy’s head in my hand. I reached down and I looked at him and I put my mouth on his mouth and I blew my breath into his lungs and I said, “Michael, breathe.” I thought of Lazarus and Jesus calling and saying, “Lazarus, come forth.” I knew that God could raise Michael. I blew my breath into him again. I said, “Michael, you listen to your daddy, you breathe.” And I blew my breath into him again and I became painfully aware that Michael was cold, Michael was limp, and my son was gone and daddy couldn’t fix it. I sat there and my heart broke. I sat there that night and I held that little boy and I heard these words, “Daddy, can I go with you? Daddy, can I please go with you? Daddy, I love you. No, no, no daddy. I…love…you.” My mind raced a million miles an hour as I walked back out into the waiting room to my wife and daughters. And for the first time in their lives, daddy couldn’t fix it.
The next few days were filled with things like looking for caskets, picking out cemetery plots. What are the proper clothes that he should wear for his funeral? How do you want his tie knotted? How do want his hair combed? Do you want it cut? Your heart is wrenched, pulled out of your chest. Your lying in bed, 2 o’clock in the morning and all of a sudden you hear him calling you, “Daddy, daddy.” And you realize, this is just been a dream and you throw the covers off and you run down the hall and you run in his room and you smell him and he’s not there. And you grab the clothes in his closet and you bring them to your face and you just want to smell him, but he’s gone. I thought, “God, I cannot survive this.”
Michael was 8-years old. He was my best friend. He carried my name. Everything I did in this life was for Michael Dean Chadwick II. The companies I’d built, the fortunes that I’d wanted to amass, all that I did I wanted to do for him. I had no idea that Michael only had 8 years. Gang, you’ve got no idea how much time you’ve got either. Folks have often asked me what kind of regrets I have. I have very few regrets. Michael had a softball jersey and if you’ve every seen the picture of victory, it’s about a picture of a little 8-year old boy walking towards a group of guys that have been playing ball. Michael’s jersey has on the number 18, the number from FCA. I regret never taking Michael’s picture in his softball jersey. I normally carry it with me when I speak. I regret never taking Michael to a football game of the Redskins.
But the one thing I don’t regret—next door to us lived a man by the name of General Butch Neal. General Butch Neal was second in command in the Desert Storm. General Neal was a marine general and still is today. He’s, matter of fact, the head of the entire Marine Corp now. He was little Michael’s very best friend. Michael worshipped General Neal and I was very honored to share my son with General Neal. Until one day, Michael came home and he said, “Daddy, I was at the General’s house today.” I said, “Son, what else is new?” He said, “No, I asked the General if he died if he was going to go to heaven.” I said, “You did? Well what did he say?” He said, “I got scared and ran out. You go ask him.” I said, “He’s not my friend.” He said, “Please, will you go ask him?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, one day I will.” He said, “Daddy, I really want to know.” I said, “Ok.”