One Navy Team
.Master Chief Personnel Specialist Ren Hockenberry, currently serving aboard USS Port Royal (CG-73) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was on a site visit at the Marshal Fahim Training Facility in Afghanistan in 2014 when shots were fired. After a two-minute fire fight, Hockenberry had been shot five times; 15 others were also injured or killed.
Nine months of physical therapy and countless surgeries in recovery followed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, all while Hokenberry’s desire to deploy again slowly grew.
“I heard it on that gurney,” said Hockenberry. “Return to theatre unlikely, return to active duty unlikely, return to operational status unlikely. Because of good people I got here, and I don’t want my last deployment to be the one that was taken from me, I want to deploy, at least one last time.”
Hockenberry said that during her recovery she thought a lot about the attack and how hard that was on her as well as how dangerous down-time and overthinking can be for someone in recovery. Two factors that played a significant role in helping her bounce back during recovery were junior Sailors and the desire to get back to work.
"During Chief initiation season, a lot of Chief selects came to speak with me as well as other junior Sailors throughout my recovery," said Hockenberry. "It helped me remember that I was a Chief and that junior Sailors were watching so I couldn't be a baby. I couldn't not do what I was supposed to do because Chiefs do what they need to do."
There were moments during her time in the hospital when Hockenberry lost her motivation and she was on the brink of giving up. Every time that happened there was a junior Sailor around that she couldn’t bear to disappoint.
“I remember one day laying in a hospital bed and they had come in and said that it was time for PT (physical therapy) and I said no, I’m not going to PT, and the physical therapist was like no, you have to get up and I said no, my leg hurts, I’m not going,” said Hockenberry. “And this HM3 (Hospital Corpsman Third Class) popped in and he said, ‘Hey Senior are you going to PT?’ and I was like yep! I was just getting up, because there was this young Sailor expecting me to get up and do the right thing.”
After everything that happened in Afghanistan and during her recovery time Master Chief Hockenberry still serves on active duty with a goal to continue to deploy and motivate and inspire the junior Sailors around her.
“If I can convince a Sailor that’s going through some stuff to get off the couch and reach out for help then I’ve done my duty, I want my Sailors to know that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to have a bad day and it’s okay to fall down, over and over and over, but you just need to keep getting back up,” said Hockenberry.
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