FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, April 19, 2007) - The Fort Campbell Courier's advice columnist, Ms. Vicki, has jumped into the spotlight, garnering attention from newspapers and television stations nationwide.
Ms. Vicki Johnson, a clinical social worker and Soldier's spouse, has been sharing advice with military Families on relationships, parenting, deployment and more in the "Dear Ms. Vicki" column for nearly two years.
What started as a small column with a few questions asked each week has grown into a national phenomenon. Johnson's column runs weekly in the Fort Campbell newspaper, but she receives letters from military Families as far away as California and from servicemembers outside the Army.
Since the "Los Angeles Times" ran a piece on Ms. Johnson in January, she has appeared on "NBC Nightly News," "CNN" and the "CBS Early Show." On April 17, the Associated Press released a Ms. Vicki story that was published in newspapers across the nation, including "The Washington Times." "ABC World News" also plans to air a feature in the coming weeks.
With more than 10 years of working with Families in crisis, Ms. Johnson has helped Families with a variety of problems. Her column is no different. She's answered questions about post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, how to help children understand deployment and how to handle gossip.
For Ms. Johnson, the column is important because the military has been her way of life for so many years.
"Not everyone who writes me needs advice; some just need connections and some are very graphic," she said. "I'm just glad the column offers a way for people to vent freely."
After returning from a deployment, a Soldier told Ms. Vicki about his wife: "From my previous deployments, I've noticed that most wives try to do extra special things to impress their husbands when they return ... My wife gained more than 55 pounds! I love my wife, but I want her to lose weight because I am no longer attracted to her. How can I tell her'"
A spouse, 'Worried Husband,' wrote: "Ever since my wife returned from Iraq, she's been having nightmares, waking up with sweats, even screaming and yelling ... My wife says leaders can't discuss their problems or it will affect future promotions. Is this true; is there any help for my wife'"
"Courier" Editor Kelli Bland says Vicki occasionally gets letters from Soldiers, but she appeals mostly to Family Members. "She reaches out to families, which is important because we've got to take care of our Families if we want to retain our Soldiers," Ms. Bland said.
A mother wrote to Vicki about troubles with her 16-year-old daughter: "I allowed her boyfriend, who was 18, to move in our home ... I asked my daughter were they having sex, because if they were I would put her on birth control. She kept denying it and saying no. Now I find out that she is pregnant."
Vicki's response was not sugar coated: "In no way should you have ever let your 16-year-old daughter's boyfriend move into your home! You were only asking for trouble and providing too much access for this to happen. I don't believe you didn't know they were having sex."
Ms. Johnson's frankness is part of her charm, Ms. Bland said. "She's like everyone's best friend - she's more than willing to listen, and she will most certainly tell you how she feels."
Because her photograph runs with her column, Mrs. Johnson has been approached with questions in the commissary and PX, and has even had notes left on her car, she said.
Ms. Johnson recently moved with her husband, Lt. Col. Skip Johnson, to the Washington, D.C., area, but she continues to write her column for the "Courier" to help the Soldiers and Families at Fort Campbell.
The "Dear Ms. Vicki" column is available online at <a href="http://www.fortcampbellcourier.com"target=_blank> www.fortcampbellcourier.com</a>.