Heartbreak – by Jessica Veilleux
June 27, 2018
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TRENDING @ Veterans Rally Point: Jeff Blocker, U.S. Army

Introducing Writer, Jeff Blocker

Let me introduce myself – my name is Jeff Blocker, and I am helping Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern CT in the capacity of a military veteran and intern writer/consultant. I joined their Team last year to write at a pace that was comfortable for me.

I became a disabled veteran at the age of 21, in April 1992. I worked as an artillery surveyor, combat lifesaver, and missile inspector during my time with the regular Army. I served most of my three years of my military service in Germany with Bravo Battery 2/12, 210th Brigade. My unit trained extensively and guarded against terrorist attacks during the Persian Gulf War.
On August 17th, 1991, I was winding down from the last night of a training mission in Crete, Greece. What an idyllic day that was – all was right with the world: I was to meet my Midwestern friends for some swimming. I even tried to teach them to body-surf, much to no avail. Later, I was looking forward to meeting my new female acquaintance from England. On the 18th, I was to return home to Germany.

By early evening, on the evening of the 17th, I swam out to a rock quite a distance from the shore. My friends were on a beach blanket about 50 feet away. I dove once and swam back to the rock. As I was climbing up the second time, I slipped and lost my footing. I tried to make a shallow dive. My head hit the water; I felt something like an electric shock that cut off all my ability to move. I sank into the water. Immediately, I knew that I was “screwed.” As I tried to hold my breath, I said to myself: “you did it this time – I’m so far from everything I know, I’m so far from my family.” My last thought was one of my impending doom. I was terrified. “I’m going to die.”

I awoke two days later in Landstuhl, Germany. A nurse whispered to me that I had had an accident. I still thought I was dead until seeing my family soon after that. I learned that I had severed my spinal cord, at cervical level 4. I fractured C2 (second from the brain stem) and broke C4. I was on a breathing tube coming out of my neck – otherwise known as a tracheostomy. I didn’t want to know most of the details of my situation, like how I was going to the bathroom. People were dying in the next room on either side, so I was trying to shorten my scope of understanding to survive.
My parents and my brother had to make an emergency flight and get passports together as quickly as they could. With help from friends from Hampton, a town in Windham County, they managed to get passports, and a stranger gave my mother $500 to help them get overseas. Without the administrative help, and the generosity of this stranger, it would’ve taken a lot longer for my family to get to Landstuhl. If we had a charity like Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern CT back then, it would’ve been a Godsend. I was medically retired with an honorable discharge in April 1992.

I grew up in Windham County, and I still have family in Hampton, Connecticut. I live in Windsor – which is part of the Capital Region. This writing opportunity is a significant experience for me – as I have resided in both areas covered by this life changing organization and philanthropic effort. This unpaid writing internship helps me in two meaningful ways. Professionally, this is a chance for me to improve my writing skills and gives me invaluable experience. Personally, through my writing, I hope to help veterans and their families in need – just as the Army, and others helped my family in our desperate time. I hope to help Easterseals CR&EC assist other soldiers/veterans and their families in similar stressful situations.

In my case, my superiors in the military were incredibly kind to my family, and I always had three of my Army brothers continually looking after me in my hospital room. I was very touched and motivated to do good in this world by my upbringing and especially the care and compassion at the ICU in Landstuhl.

After a year of rehabilitation in Boston, I attended UConn, but I was unable to finish my degree until 2013 because of my terrible stomach problems. I could never count on any period of time to feel well enough to study. Beth Pritchard, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing & Philanthropy Officer at Easterseals CR&EC, has given me this incredible opportunity with little pressure. She has faith in me, my writing ability, and she/Easterseals CR&EC is giving me the chance to help my brothers, sisters and their families on my home turf. This situation is genuinely a win-win (in the parlance of our times) for me. I look forward to serving my fellow disabled veterans.

Do you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in Easterseals CR&EC’s Rally Point blog? Email bpritchard@escrec.org.

Look for future articles on a variety of relevant topics, published by Jeff Blocker at Veterans’ Rally Point Blog.  

15 Comments

  1. Richard Brown says:

    This is a true story of courage.

    • Jeff says:

      Thank you, for your ultimate compliment. I like to think there was courage involved, but I was fortunate to be young and daring before and after the incident. But, most of all, I had your family for support during those early injury days that were not easy to comprehend. Plus, you were the first person that ensured safe entry into your house. (Pretty safe anyway) Thank you, as always, for taking such an active interest in my life.

  2. Jarad Carolan says:

    Well done Jeff! What a great way to help your Army/Military family through an organization like Easterseals that has done so much for veterans through the years. I remember that day well. It was a painful day, a tragic day. You’ve made the most of it and never gave up. You are truly an inspiration to everyone who knows you and to those you have yet to meet. I look forward to more of your writing. Thank You!

    • Jeff says:

      Hi Jarad: You helped save my life, my friend. I have been thankful for life before and after that terrible day in Crete. But, without your able assistance, I wouldn’t be sending you a message right now. Thank you for the second chance you gave me by helping two other heroic military personnel pull me out of the water. All three of you saved my life. I will never be able to thank you enough.

  3. Stacey Willis says:

    What a wonderful surprise to hear from you, Jeff! I think of you often and am so happy to see your face. Your blog is well done and I actually never heard your whole story. I have great memories from Arizona that include you. Time flies, doesn’t it?

    • Jeff says:

      Thank you, Stacey, for your generous comments, and for coming back into my life. Feel free to share your Arizona memories on this blog. (Just kidding). I only share my accident story for charity! JB

  4. Jenny Lamont says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jeff. Well written and inspirational–reminding us to be generous and appreciate each day. And thank you for your service–you did something most of us don’t–and now you are continuing to contribute. How do we thank you enough?

    • Jeff says:

      Hi Jenny!Thank you for reading and taking an interest in this blog post. The opportunity humbles me that Easter Seals has afforded me. The woman I work for truly understands the challenges that I face medically and how that translates vocationally. By getting the word out about how to employ people with differing physical constraints, hopefully, more voices of disabled veterans will be heard. Good luck with your upcoming move.

  5. Jacqueline Simard says:

    Jeff, your story is one of courage and perseverance. You are inspiring and wholehearted and lending your help to the Army/Military families through the Easterseals organization is just one more example of that. Your gentle spirit, quick wit and excellent taste in music has made it a pleasure working with and getting to know you. Thank you

    • Jeff says:

      Jacqueline – I appreciate your well-worded compliments. Perhaps you should be doing some writing yourself! Of course, I think that you have exquisite taste in music because it mirrors mine. Also, you came into a unique situation for you, and have enriched my life through therapeutic massage and your easy-going disposition. Thank you!

  6. Cary Blocker says:

    I know how difficult things can be and have been for you on a daily basis –and what an incredible source of strength and sheer will you have been for us all. Keep up the poignant writing, bro. You have a lasting impact on everyone you meet.

    • Jeff says:

      Thank you, Cary, for your kind words. I wouldn’t be writing without your influence, and appreciation of the English language. Thank you, brother.

  7. Ellen Chiapperini says:

    Jeff. Your mom sent this to me to read. The writing is wonderful, and I wish you luck in your writing endeavors. I’ve known your mom and dad since our college days. She is still one of my closest friends, one of the best people I know. I’ve heard your story from her, of course, but to see it written brings even more meaning to what you have gone through these last many years.
    So love to you and great success.

    • Jeff says:

      Ellen – of course, I remember you and Chip well. I’ve heard through my mom that life has been quite challenging for both of you. I’m sorry to hear this, especially remembering visiting you with family during my childhood days. Thank you for the generous words, and for reminding me of your friendship with my mom. Much love to both of you, and I hope that this message finds you in good spirits.

  8. Mariam says:

    This is actually useful, thanks.

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