Life can change in an instant, as former SkillsUSA member Brad Lang knows. The decorated Marine has used his own life’s path to create a new career and to support other injured service members.
The two-time SkillsUSA national medalist was always a standout. As a high school student in Michigan, he studied CNC (computer numerical control) machining at Mount Pleasant Area Technical Center and won a gold medal in CNC in 2003. He took bronze the next year while attending Kettering University.
Competing at the SkillsUSA Championships was memorable, Lang says. “It was really neat to meet all of the other competitors, people who are passionate about what they do. There is a lot of talent out there.”
After college, he joined the Marines in the bomb squad, known as explosive ordnance disposal or EOD. On July 24, 2011, during one of many deployments to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Lang was severely injured during a mission.
As he worked with a partner to remove improvised explosive devices (IEDs), they removed one, then detected another. Lang was disposing of it when a third device exploded. He nearly died, losing both of his legs and suffering a shattered pelvis, ruptured eardrum and critical injuries to his head and internal organs.
Defying what doctors thought possible, Lang endured many surgeries plus intense physical and medical rehabilitation. He later received a Purple Heart and many other medals, ribbons and citations. He and his wife Alyssa even had what they called a “miracle baby” following his injuries, completing their family of four.
While recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Lang and another Marine with similar injuries decided to go into business building custom weapons for the disabled, combining their gunsmithing and CNC machining skills with engineering knowledge.
In May 2013, they were featured on TV’s “60 Minutes.” A segment showed how the military develops entrepreneurial skills, as service members often have to accomplish a lot quickly while using limited resources out in the field.
Lang has since sold his share of the business, but he still does custom work and precision machining for it. He assists nonprofits for veterans such as the Semper Fi Fund, the EOD Warrior Foundation and Homes for our Troops. The latter group built a house for Lang and his family in North Carolina. That connection led back to SkillsUSA. In 2019, Lang returned to its national conference, where thousands cheered as he threw the ceremonial first pitch at a ballgame.