Against All Odds

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.

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I heard it on that gurney. “Return to theater unlikely.” “Return to active duty unlikely.” “Return to operational status unlikely.” Because of good people, I got here. I don’t want my last deployment to be the deployment that was taken from me. I want to deploy at least one time. On August 5, 2014, I was serving as the senior enlisted leader for Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. We were on a site visit to a training facility for the Afghan National Army, and one of the Afghan soldiers turned his weapon and started shooting into my unit. (gun shots) 15 U.S. and Coalition service members were injured. One was killed. I was injured pretty severely, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize it. I had been in the hospital about two weeks, and they were trying to decide whether they were gonna amputate, and I said, “So, two weeks and I get to go back?” And he’s like, “I don’t think you’re grasping this.” I remember one day lying in a hospital bed. They had come in and said, “It’s time for PT.” And I said, “No, I’m not going to PT.” And the physical therapist is like, “No, you gotta get up.” And I said, “No, my leg hurts. “I’m not going.” And this HM3 popped in, and he said, “Hey senior, are you going to PT?” And I was like, “Yep, I was just getting up.” Because there’s this HM3 looking at me. There’s this young sailor expecting me to get up and do the right thing. And then I remember a couple days later in physical therapy, I had fallen. I was trying to walk and I kept falling. And they’re like, “Try it again.” And I said, “No, I’m done.” I think at that point, I was, “I don’t care if I never walk. “I don’t care, I’m done. “It hurts.” And, HM3, here he is again. He’s like, “Hey, you’re doing great. “You getting up?” And I said, “Yup, I’m getting up.” And that was a huge driving factor. Because it’s very easy to give up and quit when things get hard. But somebody is relying on you, and if you show somebody that you can get through, maybe they start thinking they can get through. If I can convince a sailor that has gone 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 over and over and over. But you need to just keep getting back up.

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