“I’m Grateful to Be Here”

Joanna Oakley grew up in Morrilton, Arkansas and joined the Army in 2003. “I told my grandmother I wanted a job where I could blow things up. She took me to the Army recruitment office. I think they thought we were Avon ladies because we were both all dressed up. When I told the recruiter why I wanted to join the Army, he said I’d come to the right place. I never did get to blow stuff up though. I was 54 Bravo and worked in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare; you know, learning how to respond if any of those things were used against us.”

Ms. Oakley left the Army in 2005. “After leaving the military I started running with the wrong crowd. I had various jobs, had some legal issues, even went to prison. I got married and had two children. I was on parole and I just left. I went to Seattle and started over. I was there four years. I went to school, got a good job; I didn’t think Arkansas would be bothered to track me down. But I was at the right place at the right time. And yes, I said that correctly because it got me back and ready to start again the right way. “

Ms. Oakley was helping a friend in a bad situation and the police were eventually called. They ran her plates and it showed her parole violation. She was extradited to Arkansas and had to serve ninety days.

But truthfully God blessed me. I cherish every day. Eventually I want to move back home, but right now I’m looking for job and have an interview coming up.”

Ms. Oakley was working on an Associates in Criminology and Forensics, but she has changed her mind about that road. “My family was always religious, but my mom stopped going to church. My grandmother had chicken pox while she was pregnant and my mom was born deaf. None of the churches had an interpreter. I grew up knowing how to sign and I think I want to pursue that instead. I’ve already talked to Arkansas School for the Deaf and found out what my first steps have to be to become licensed as a signer.

St. Francis House is a great beginning to a new start. All the resources, opportunities and the staff are phenomenal. And you can feel the love. I had to go into treatment while I was here and I was gone thirty-five days. When I came back, the Vets swarmed me! This is my second home, my family. If someone is willing to put forth the effort, this is place. I’m grateful to be here!”