Soldier who lit Army officer on fire found guilty, attack could have been prevented

Army officer Katie Blanchard (Facebook)

She did what she was trained to do. She noticed a problem and elevated her concerns to leadership. When leadership didn’t act — she paid the price — being burned and sliced with razor during a ferocious attack in her office.

A nurse in the US Army, 1st. Lt. Katie Ann Blanchard was viciously attacked in 2016 by civilian subordinate Clifford Currie, who set her aflame and cut her with a razor while on duty at Munson Army Health Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Although FOX 4 News reports Currie was found guilty of assault with intent to commit murder and is facing 20 years in federal prison, Blanchard still struggles and says a year of surgeries, treatments, investigations and the trial have taken a toll on her mind and body.

“Hearing guilty does close a chapter in this, but I think it’s just one part of the many that need to be looked at, that need to be addressed.” Blanchard tells FOX 4 News, “It’s simple things like holding my children — it’s not the same. You wake up, and you’re not used to seeing your face and then you see your face and you wonder ‘is that me? Is that still me under there?’”

Blanchard describes for FOX 4 News the injuries she suffered on that ill-fated day during the attack her lawyer says should have never happened.

“The gasoline was spread on my face, so 100 percent of my face has been burned, the right side of my face is disfigured, my neck, my chest, my back area and both of my arms and hands. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns,” she said.

Blanchard’s lawyer, Will M. Helixon, tells FOX 4 News the nurse’s leadership should be held accountable.

“This provides a small piece of closure for Lt. Blanchard but the real fight — the real battle is ahead of us,” Helixon tells FOX 4 News. “And that is making sure that those who ignored the warning signs are held accountable.”

According to legal documents, one employee recalls Blanchard screaming, “l told you this would happen” after Currie doused her with accelerant, set her alight and attacked her with a razor.

In fact, Blanchard spoke out at the end of June about how Currie should not have been allowed to see patients at all, due to mental instability.

“Clifford Currie had previously threatened patients, and it progressed to a point for a bit so he was taken out of direct patient care and then, without thought, he was replaced to his full position with no restraints or checks,” Blanchard said on her social media page. “I fought for this to not to happen but lost that fight too. The Munson Army Health leadership is responsible for letting the situation get as far as it did. Especially LTC Guirand, who continually let him come in after hours and told me to not [pursue] any disciplinary actions. I knew in my heart someone would end up hurt.”

Frustrated and wondering why she was being suppressed while being given limited information and accessibility considerations, she asked, “Are toxic environments just the norm in the Army now?”

“When I was in training at Fort [Sam Houston, Texas,] after college, I was proud to be part of the Army, and I was overjoyed with the way we were told the WTB treated our wounded warriors,” she reflected. “I opted to transfer here because I truly believed this was the ‘best’ place to be. I have been so disappointed with the way the WTB treats our Wounded Warriors.”

Despite the challenging road ahead, Blanchard still dreams of a bright future — a future with a renewed focus on service to others.

“I really hope that I’ll be able to go back to nursing and be able to help other burn victims,” she tells FOX 4 News. “With the experience I have, as an RN and then also as a patient myself, I can really affect change in that way. And really affect change in workplace violence and hopefully being proactive and working with the military to see what better steps we can put in place to protect other soldiers, sailors, Marines.”

FOX 4 News reports Currie, 55, is scheduled to be sentence in October.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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