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Sep 27

Portsmouth Native Promoted to Colonel

Posted on September 27, 2019 at 9:04 AM by Sharon Hoggard

Portsmouth native Valeria Johnson, 45, was recently promoted to the rank of colonel. She got her first job at age 14 as a janitor at a school during the summer. When she was 8, Valeria Johnson’s mother asked her she wanted out of life. The girl had a long list of material things, which prompted a skeptical response from her mother.

"You’re going to need to marry a doctor or lawyer or a military man,” Johnson recalled her mother saying. “I told her, ‘I can do that myself.’ ”

Johnson, 45, a Portsmouth native, made it her goal to make her mother proud. She was determined to move beyond a childhood of poverty, which drove her to the top of her algebra II class at Woodrow Wilson High School, where she graduated in 1990, and to college degrees from Norfolk State and Central Michigan universities. 
It also led to her to a career in the U.S. Army, which took her around the world on multiple deployments to the Middle East. She recently attained the rank of colonel, and in June she will graduate from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., with a master’s degree in strategic studies.

“When you think of where I came from — the projects — I had all these goals. A person coming from where I came from wasn’t meant to be a colonel,” she said. “I had a dream to work myself out of poverty. I remember mom struggling. So I got my first job at 14 as a janitor at a school over the summer. I was determined.”

She also credits several key figures in her military career path with helping her along the way, from starting paperwork to begin the officer track to teaching her the importance of family. A supportive spouse has made it all possible, she said. Johnson and her husband, Andre, who retired with 20 years in the Virginia National Guard and now works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., will celebrate their 24th anniversary June 3.

Her father, LaDaniel Boone; sister-in-law, LaToya Nesbit; and aunt Emily Davis were also instrumental, Johnson said. “God sent a lot of mentors my way,” she said. “That matters a whole lot.”

At the Naval War College, Johnson said she studies military strategy along with about 350 colleagues from military branches around the world. Since Aug. 1, the 10-month program, particularly her interaction with colleagues from other countries, has given her a new perspective on her country’s role in global conflict. 
That importance of that type of diversity is not lost on Johnson, both within the U.S. military and in everyday life.

“For me, I’m an equal opportunist,” she said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to achieve their dreams, whatever their race or creed may be.

“There are still some challenges from people who don’t believe women should be in the military. You do your best to have a positive attitude. At the end of the day, we bring our soldiers home safe and sound. Don’t let that negativity impact the mission.” #PortsmouthProud

Story: Courtesy of the U.S. Navy