My name is Judi Boyce. I am a retired Culinary Specialist Seaman, and I am a wounded warrior. I don’t fit the traditional definition of a wounded warrior. I was not wounded in combat. In 2008, I was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease, a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disorder. I had joined the Navy two years earlier, but, after my diagnosis, my military career was cut short. My illness – and the brain surgeries that accompanied it – had a profound impact on my life in many ways.

Did you know that November is Warrior Care Month? It is an opportunity to recognize wounded warriors – all types of wounded warriors. Sometimes, you can spot a wounded warrior at first glance; perhaps he has a prosthetic limb, or he was burned in a shipboard accident. But many of us who have an illness or injury – who have all ten fingers and ten toes, and don’t outwardly appear to struggle – still need assistance.

Thanks to support from the Navy – particularly the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program – and other organizations, I have accomplished a lot since my diagnosis. For the past three years, I have participated in the Warrior Games, where I fell in love with archery and the gorgeous Colorado landscape. I currently am living in Montrose, Colorado, and I recently attended archery training camps in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a Paralympics coach.

I also am part of the Welcome Home Montrose Dream Job program, which gives me an opportunity to try out my ideal job – event planning – with a personal mentor. I always have been a cook, but since my second brain surgery, I haven’t been able to follow recipes as easily as I once did. When I was younger, I always imagined that if cooking didn’t work out, I would do something with party planning or photography. So far, my experience with Welcome Home Montrose has been great; ultimately I hope to have enough connections to be in charge of planning a really memorable event.

I also recently got a service dog, which has been a big help since I lost some vision in my left eye. She walks on my left side, helping to guide me, and she acts as a companion, responding if my heart rate spikes for some reason. By calming me down, she has helped prevent me from having mini-strokes. And, when people approach me to ask about her, she helps me raise awareness about my disease, and about warrior care.

Wounded warriors, like me, chose to stand up, join the military and be proud of ourselves no matter what. I am really happy about everything I have accomplished, as well as what other wounded warriors have done, despite the challenges we face. No matter what, we have fought, and we have proved people wrong who have doubted us.

This month is chance to celebrate all wounded warriors. Please take time to thank them for their service, and to let them know that you are behind them – now and in the future!

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