Soldier returns to work after IHOP shooting
Instinctively, Jeremiah Mock reached down for the tourniquet he kept in the left cargo pocket of his Army uniform. But it wasn’t there.
This wasn’t war – he’d been to war three times and survived five car bomb attacks without so much as a scratch. This was breakfast at Carson City IHOP which had turned into a combat zone when a lone gunman entered and opened fire.
Wrapping up a business breakfast with fellow officers of the Joint Force Headquarters Unit, Mock never saw it coming. With his back to the front door, he didn’t see the gunman, nor did he hear the shots over the din of the restaurant and the construction outside.
He just felt an excruciating pain suddenly race up his right arm. He doubled over to grab his elbow, likely dodging the second round of gunfire that killed three of his companions.
When he looked up, he saw the kind of massacre he’d only seen in a war zone.
Mock slid to the floor and tied off his arm with his belt. And as he lay in his own blood on the restaurant floor, amid cries of panic and horror, one thought kept returning.
“I need to get this arm fixed so I can hold my boys,” he said. “I just want to hold my wife and boys again.”
Sgt. 1st Class Mock, 32, had returned home at the end of June from a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan – his third combat tour. It was his first as a soldier in the Nevada National Guard, but he’d served a previous tour there while enlisted in the U.S. Army and another to Iraq.
He was no stranger to bloodshed. He’d witnessed gruesome death before, and wore a bracelet in honor of his friend Spc. Justin Herbert who was killed in Afghanistan in 2003.
Mock took two months of leave when he returned, giving himself time to adjust to life at home and to help his wife with the two boys, one of whom was born while he was away.
He started work Sept. 1 and on Sept. 6, joined fellow members of the team for a breakfast meeting at IHOP to plan a family day to coincide with drill that weekend.
The group members – Maj. Heath Kelly, Master Sgt. Christian Riege, Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, Sgt. Cait Kelley and Mock – had paid the bill and were getting ready to leave when Eduardo Sencion, 32, opened fire with an assault rifle.
The five National Guardsmen were among 11 shot before Sencion killed himself.
Although losing a dangerous amount of blood, Mock concentrated on trying to keep everyone calm. He knew Sgt. Cait Kelly, who had been struck in the foot, was close to panic.
“I just tried to keep Sgt. Kelly from looking back at the table,” he said. “She didn’t need to look back at the table.”
He kept her calm by assigning tasks: Tighten the belt around his arm, tie a belt around the leg of Wally Gunderson, who’d also been shot and whose wife, Florence, was killed.
Healing from a humerus bone shattered in 11 places, Mock has found a way to cope with the devastation.
Like with his war experiences, he’s found it helps to talk.
“People want to know what happened,” he said. “And you’re getting it out there. That helps a lot with the recovery.”
But some details he doesn’t share.
“Some of it people just don’t need to know, and aren’t ready to know,” he said.
He’s grateful to friends and family who offered support during his recovery. His wife’s co-workers organized a schedule to provide meals, Army buddies flew in to help, neighbors took care of the lawn.
And he has nothing but praise for the first responders.
“If I ever had to go through the emergency room again,” he said, “I’d want it to be at Carson Tahoe.”
He still doesn’t have full range of motion in his arm and can only work a couple of days a week, but is putting the tragedy behind him.
“One day doesn’t define everything,” he said. “I put it in perspective. For some reason, I was not chosen that day to leave. I’ll never forget, but I’ll use that experience to better myself as a person and keep moving.”
Although he did not succumb to fear, he has changed some of his habits.
“I’ll never sit with my back to the door again,” he said.
And the bracelet he always wore in memory of his fallen comrade was lost during the attack. He recovered it from the sheriff’s department, but it is too painful to place it on his wrist.
Instead, he said, he keeps it on the night stand beside his bed.
“Now, it’s a reminder of everybody we’ve lost,” he said. “It keeps me grounded.”
Mock knows people look to him as a symbol of hope and resiliency, especially those who lost a loved one in the attack. And he offers his support to them.
“If that’s what helps people get by, I’m good with that,” he said.
He admits he has tough moments, but works to get through them.
“I’ve still got two boys to raise,” he said. “I’ve got to be there for them.”