I think my dedication to service might come from my grandfather, Arthur Blanchard. He and my grandmother Margret Blanchard were a Navy couple. They lived the total lifestyle and my mom moved around often as a child due to his duty assignments. My grandfather is now retired outside of Chicago and continues to work to this day. My parents both served in the Army. My dad, Jerome Jochem, served on Active Duty for 32 years. My mom is still an active duty Army Nurse. For most of my life I lived in Wisconsin on a farm. I enjoyed being outside and riding horses. I then attended four different high schools. In the end, I graduated from Burke Catholic School in Goshen, New York. I played many different sports throughout my childhood, particularly volleyball and lacrosse. I am also an accomplished equestrian.
The dedication to service definitely continued on from my parents generation. My three sisters have also served. My sister Jessica, the oldest, was in the Air Force. My next oldest sister, Analise, Army and my baby sister, Makaiya, Navy. I also have an uncle who served in the Navy. We have all the branches represented and there may even be a bit of trash talking surrounding the Commander’s Cup and the Army-Navy game each year.
I always wanted to help others and I thought nursing would be a great way to do that. My mother was deployed for my junior and most of senior year of high school. We were close and would talk a lot about her experiences as an Army Nurse. I was so proud of what she was doing I decided I wanted to be just like her. I applied for a ROTC Scholarship and got accepted for a full ride to Pacific Luther University. My mom tried to convince me to join the Air Force but I wanted to be tough like my mom.
I met Troy on our first date. He picked me up to take me to the zoo. After we had gone through the zoo he asked me to dinner and after that wanted to go to a movie! It was like the date that never ended. But I was more than ok with that because I didn’t want it to end either. He was quiet and formal and I was outgoing and talkative we were complete opposites. To this day, we’re still opposites and I still don’t want the date to end!
Troy proposed to me after six months of dating. We were inseparable and after the first week of dating I thought he was the one. He asked me to marry him after my semester exams of my junior year. We all went out with some of my college girlfriends and after he took me down to the Puget sound and proposed to me by the water front. He first gave me a ring pop and then laughed and showed me the beautiful ring he had picked out. We had a small family wedding after I graduated from college in 2013. It was simple and fun and reflected our life and love.
Our first child, Canaan, kept Troy and I VERY busy. Then when the two other boys came along in 2014 and 2015, the house got really crazy. They love to play nerf gun in the house, climb trees and play with the animals on the farm. I love to see them getting to experience the type of childhood I had on the farm. It means a lot to me to be able to pass that on to my boys.
In 2015, Troy had the opportunity to attend the Army’s Command and General Staff College. He didn’t really want to go to Kansas but I convinced him that it would be good both for his career and for our family. The boys and I really enjoyed the Kansas City area. There were a lot of different activities for the kids, and the people at Fort Leavenworth try to make a welcoming environment for the families attending CGSC. I even took up fox hunting. I never expected to be attacked by a subordinate at work. Let alone to have it happen at a place as picturesque as Fort Leavenworth!
My immediate response to being attacked was anger and fear. I was screaming I told you this was going to happen. It was heartbreaking to know that I had tried to get help in so many different ways to deal with the aggressive behaviors of this subordinate, and yet he still had the opportunity to perpetrate this vicious attack. I had gone to anyone that would listen for help – even to many people who would not. I felt betrayed by the Army system that I had worked so hard for. The system that I believed in. The system that multiple generations of my family had sacrificed for. To know that the Army, MY Army, had let me down and had allowed this to happen to me was, and is so difficult to comprehend. It has taken a lot of work for me to let go of some of that anger and begin to move past it. I’ve now transformed that anger in to fighting for workplace safety and to make sure no one else goes through what I have.
My recovery isn’t over. I am still going through therapy and surgeries and I will be for a long while. Various appointments fill most of my days. When I’m not at an appointment, I play with my boys whenever we get a chance. Now that I’m at Fort Sam Houston, we love going to the children’s museum in San Antonio and visiting the horse stables. I’ve been working really hard at regaining movement in my hands and arms. I still struggle with movement in my neck and face.
I am looking forward to my future. I didn’t know in the immediate aftermath of the attack what my future would look like. I’m slowly building the picture of what it will be with the support of my family and friends. I’m going to continue to advocate against workplace violence. I want to do more public speaking to help people understand how workplace violence can happen anywhere. I want to use this horrible attack on me to bring about some good by advocating for changes in the way the Department of Defense protects servicemembers. I would also like to continue to further my education. Unfortunately, due to my injuries I would not be fit to work as a floor nurse anymore. But I’m already looking at ways of helping in clinic or research based nursing. I’m really looking forward to getting me, Troy, and the boys back home to Olympia Washington and working the farm again.