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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.
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.’ ”
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
me, I’m an equal opportunist,” she said. “Everyone should have an opportunity
to achieve their dreams, whatever their race or creed may be.
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
Story: Courtesy of the U.S. Navy