Tchicaya Missamou has taken a brutal childhood in the Republic of Congo, where he was recruited by rebel forces and taught to fight and kill at the age of 11, and turned his experiences into a mission to inspire others and to live as a free man.
Missamou is the author of "In the Shadow of Freedom," a memoir recounting his life story, and he will be the keynote speaker at the 96th annual Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce dinner on Monday night at the Dyson-Baudo Recreation Center at Marietta College.
"We selected (Missamou) because his is really a message of hope," said chamber President Charlotte Keim. "His dream really was to live a life where he was free and had opportunity ... we hope that people are moved and motivated by him."
Keim said the message she hopes those attending the dinner will pick up is that, even in the face of great hardship, one can overcome incredible odds.
"This ties in to what we are trying to do, trying to spread the message that even in this economy, there are new businesses starting, that this truly is an incredible country and always has been a land of opportunity," she said.
According to excerpts from his book, "As a horrific civil war loomed across his country, (Missamou) began using his militia connections to ferry jewels, cash, computers, and white diplomats out of the country. By 17, he was rich. By 18, he was a hunted man, his house destroyed, his family brutalized in front of him by his own militia. By 19, he'd left behind everything he'd ever known, escaping to Europe and, eventually, to America."
If you go
What: Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce 96th annual Dinner with the theme "Hope, Believe, Live the Dream."
When: Monday; social hour starts at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 6:30.
Where: Dyson-Baudo Recreation Center at Marietta College.
Keynote speaker: Tchicaya Missamou.
Tickets: $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight. Reservations are open to the public.
For more information or to purchase tickets: 373-5176 or email@example.com
Now a U.S. Marine, Missamou is also the founder and creator of The Warrior Fitness, a workout program based on military-style exercises and located in Santa Clarita, Calif.
"(Missamou) has never been to the Midwest," said Keim. "We plan to roll out the red carpet for him, to show him small town life."
Missamou is scheduled to speak at the Chamber dinner for roughly 20 to 30 minutes and will also speak to students at the Washington County Career Center on Tuesday.
Also at Monday's dinner, according to Keim, the Vision Project, a new video and Internet marketing campaign, will be officially unveiled.
Awards, including the Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year and Zonta Elizabeth L. Hadler Woman of the Year, will also be handed out to those in the community who have made an impact.