However, ten days into her first deployment, Susan's dream turned into a nightmare.
"I got assaulted by a fellow soldier and ten days after that, he came back and raped me," Upchurch said.
After the initial shock wore off, Upchurch tried reporting her assailant, Alexandro Isaac Jones, but no one would help.
"Everyone was telling me there was too much red tape," Upchurch said. "The more I tried to report it, the more degrading they got to me."
Upchurch said one sergeant finally reported the rape, but then Jones was moved into her barracks.
But Upchurch kept fighting for the next four months to bring Jones to trial for what he had done.
"But during the four months, everyone continued to harass me," Upchurch said. "They continued to tell me it was my fault that it happened. They just degraded me in every way that they could."
Her fellow soldiers called her "deceitful and untrustworthy" all the way to the courtroom, even though Jones admitted to raping her.
"It was a painful experience, but the jury came back pretty quick with the verdict," Upchurch said.
Upchurch was given an honorable discharge.
"I planned on retiring from the military, but I got a medical retirement and not a career retirement," Upchurch said.
"This is my life," Upchurch said. "I hang on to it every day."
Upchurch is still seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from the rape.
However, she calls herself one of the lucky ones.
"A lot of women won't report it because of the repercussions that they get when they report it," Upchurch said. "When women do report it and they go to trial, the men are found not guilty."
Upchurch said the rape will haunt her for the rest of her life.
"It was a complete nightmare," Upchurch said. "When I went into the military, I had expected that it would be my career."
Upchurch said she knows there are other military sexual assault victims close-by.