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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2023

We may be wounded warriors, but we can still serve

By MaryTherese Griffin ARCP

Motivational speaker Les Brown often says, “If you can look up, you can get up.” Words Retired Army Staff Sgt Michael Johnson lives by today. The petroleum logistics specialist reflects on his time at the Fort Belvoir Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU). “I was at the Fort Belvoir SRU after hurting my leg on deployment in Poland. I had perpetual headaches while recuperating, which led to imaging that showed I had lesions on my brain and, ultimately, the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).”

We first caught up with the petroleum logistics specialist earlier this year, and he shared his love for cooking and feeding the homeless. He officially retired in September, but not without a few forks in the road. He also took advantage of some fantastic opportunities thanks to the Army Recovery Care Program. “The people at the SRU truly care. The transition coordinator, Mr. James Coleman at the Ft Belvoir SRU, and Miss Johnson at Walter Reed truly care. These folks have the resources and will go above and beyond to help.”

Programs in Career and Education, for example, are helping Johnson with his future. “I graduated culinary school in June 2023 at the Kitchen of Purpose in Arlington, VA. Then I went on to Yale University with the Warrior Scholarship Program.” He said it was challenging with 10-hour days of reading and writing for the 80-hour course in business, in which he earned a certificate. “The professors at Yale were invigorating. They inspire you to want to succeed. I enjoyed it all except for the hard Harry Potter beds in the dorms,” he said, laughing.

But wait… there’s more! “I got an offer letter for a great job in the government intelligence community,” said Johnson. “I always wanted to work for the FBI or CIA. Because of my injuries and medical condition, I couldn’t. So, having this opportunity to be a part of the intelligence world, I am really happy.”

Johnson shared the Job Fairs he learned about while at the FT. Belvoir SRU led him to make connections and work in the program. He tells other Soldiers in the SRU to be persistent!

“You gotta follow up. Thousands of us attend job fairs, but you must be consistent and persistent. I saw some of the same folks from one job fair to the next, and I would reconnect and say hey, I still haven’t heard from your HR. I know they have a lot of people to see; I was making sure it was me. I did about 18 interviews through the intel community. Be persistent. It will happen.”

His positive outlook helps balance the darkness of MS and its unpredictable presence in his life. “I pray every morning I can stand on my feet. I don’t know when the MS will flare. But I still want to show people anything is possible; you must apply yourself and accept the resources. Go ahead and dance in the rain like nobody’s looking,” said Johnson, who also reminded us of his love of dancing, something he is unwilling to give up because of MS.

He hopes to inspire others who may be watching his journey. He proudly represents the wounded, ill, and injured who served in uniform and can still make a difference. “I want employers to see that we may be wounded warriors, but we can still serve. I’m returning to work at my new job to show I can still serve.”