Sgt. 1st Class Ciara Johnson: Putting her best foot forward
By Annette Gomes, Army Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - "Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love," it is one of Mother Teresa's most widely known quotes and its exactly how U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ciara Johnson was taught to live her life. She took that same approach with her when she joined the Army in 2006 after graduating high school.

"My dad as well as many others in my family served in the Army. It was my dad's influence, as well as my beliefs on wanting better for others, that helped shape who I am," Johnson said.

However, after several medical setbacks during deployments, Johnson entered the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During her healing process, the Maryland native says her time spent at the WTB opened a window of opportunity to further develop her love of helping her community.

"I have always had a passion for helping others. I was thinking of the best way to help the underserved or less fortunate and I knew I needed to strengthen my education, which required funding, so I enrolled in the (Veterans Affairs') Vocational Rehabilitation Chapter 31 program," Johnson said. "This program has helped me tremendously simply because it gave me the opportunity to sit and think about my future while giving me the tools to further it," Johnson said.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities and an employment handicap to prepare for, find, and maintain a job. It also helps transitioning service members take advantage of educational opportunities. Johnson plans on obtaining a Master's Degree in social work in 2020 and will receive funding and counseling services throughout her tenure thanks to the VA's program.

"My dream is to start a non-profit organization with my sister to support families who are going through traumatic events or who are in a transitional period," Johnson explained. "It is never a one size fits all answer for persons struggling and sometimes they just need an extra push to get to the next level."

In the end, Johnson says there is a silver lining and a lesson to be learned when adversity presents itself.

"Always put your best foot forward no matter what things look like. It is important that you always strive for the best. Even when others may doubt you and you may have lost hope, just take it one step at a time. It is your life and "runway" do not ever give up because the Lord has not given up on them and neither will I."