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.