Houston Dynamo News

Chris Papandrea | Dynamo Hero of the Match


United States Army Sergeant First Class Chris Papandrea served for almost three decades, joining the military out of high school in 1993 and recently retiring from active duty in the Fall of 2020.

“My grandfather served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War,” Papandrea said. “He was an inspiration.”

The Houston native first joined the reserves, serving as a chemical operations specialist in Houston for seven years until 2000. For the next six years, Papandrea went on active duty as a recruiter based in Pasadena, TX with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) before rejoining the reserves from 2006-09 as part of the Chemical Corps in Houston. From 2009-11, Papandrea was again on active duty stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood (Missouri) as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) instructor.

“I was approached by my command about teaching due to my knowledge and experience in that area,” Papandrea said. “I got into instructing after my father passed away, and I needed to do something different, so I got out of Houston.”

He returned to Houston and rejoined the Reserves as a Battalion Operations Sergeant, running all operations affairs for the Chemical Corps in Houston, retiring as an E-7 Sergeant First Class in 2020.

In life after military, Papandrea furthered his recruiting career and currently works in HR for a commercial construction company as a recruiting manager. He said he works with various local and global veteran organizations to hire former servicemembers, including The Mission Continues, Combined Arms, American Legion, Navy SEAL Foundation and OATH Foundation.

“It’s just about giving back to the community and giving back to the veterans,” Papandrea said. “When people have a successful military career and they retire, they can still only be 38 years old and have an entire civilian career to go through. That transition can be very daunting. Me having 27 years of experience both active duty and reserves, I’ve seen both sides of the equation. I love helping veterans in transition.”

Papandrea said he fell in love with soccer at a young age, playing the sport since he was five years old. After playing two seasons collegiately and earning a Business Management degree at Centenary College of Louisiana, he aspired to play professionally. However, an ACL tear put those dreams to an end. He said joining the military not only provided a way to serve his country, but it also funded his education.

“I became really competitive as teenager and travelled the world playing soccer,” Papandrea said. “It was a blast. The Houston Hotshots came into town, which intrigued me even more. My career just kind of progressed with the Olympic development program and then into college.”

On his favorite aspect of the sport, Papandrea added, “Soccer is kind of like the Army in terms of the camaraderie and the teamwork. The team is only as good as its weakest link. That’s true in sport. That’s true in the military. That’s true in the civilian work world.”

Papandrea, whose sister is a Dynamo365 Member, said his favorite part of matchday is spending family time with his three sons and interacting with fellow fans. Games have almost become a cultural event in his eyes.

“Diversity is really big with me in hiring candidates,” Papandrea said. “When you go to a Dynamo event, it’s a huge melting pot for diversity. It’s a mixture, and that’s awesome to watch. Even on the roster, there are players from all around the world.”

The father of three said he is most looking forward to taking his youngest son to his first Dynamo game on Saturday and letting him have that experience.

“Family and faith are the most important things to me in life,” Papandrea said. “While serving, I learned that leading by example is huge. It’s how I raised my kids. I’m not going to ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do first.”

The Houston Dynamo are proud to honor U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Chris Papandrea as the Hero of the Match during Saturday’s matchup against Austin FC as Houston Dynamo FC hosts AAPI Heritage Night at Shell Energy Stadium.