Erin’s Story: Not Your Typical Military Spouse

IMG_3197Erin Johnson is the Director of Development at Hire Heroes USA but she’s also so much more… she’s a Navy veteran, a military spouse, and a breast cancer survivor. Read on to learn about how she dealt with the unexpected turns her life took after she joined the Navy.

I never thought I would be a military spouse, at least not in the traditional sense. I met my husband the day I reported to my first duty station aboard USS SAN JACINTO (CG-56). I was a newly-commissioned Ensign in the Navy, and he had just promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade, two years ahead of me. Once he transferred off the ship, we started dating, got married and were immediately co-located to Hawaii–the first of many moves. Since I was active duty, I was among the lucky 13 percent of military spouses enjoying the benefits of moving together where jobs awaited us both in our new location. I figured it would be this way until I retired after 20 years of military service. I was wrong.

An unexpected cancer diagnosis at my eight-year mark put a major dent in my career plans. After a full year of aggressive treatment, and a follow-on year of awaiting a medical board decision, I was officially LT Erin Johnson, USN (Retired.) Less than two months after receiving my DD-214, we moved across the country, from Seattle–where I was surrounded by my family, friends, colleagues, and medical team–to Washington, DC, where I knew no one, and had no job. I was happy to support my husband in his career, but I also wanted a career of my own. I felt frustrated. I felt alone. I felt overwhelmed.

It took nearly a year of searching to find a job that mattered, and another two years after that to really discover my calling. I was fortunate enough to find a career that allows me to dedicate my passion and advocacy for military spouse employment to truly make a difference, and an employer who supports my status as a military spouse by allowing me to work–and lead a IMG_3469department–remotely. I had never heard of Hire Heroes USA when I needed help finding a job, but I sure wish I had–it would have made things so much easier for me.

It’s safe to say that I’m not where I thought I would be, and I didn’t get here on my own. I know what it’s like to feel alone in a new city, to feel overwhelmed at a lack of career prospects. I know, because I’ve lived it. It doesn’t have to be this way–from one military spouse to another, I’d love to help.


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