Ex-Hennepin Army Wife Named Top Spouse at Fort Hood

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
A St. Bede Academy graduate who grew up in Hennepin again earned recognition as a military spouse.

Last month, Theresa (Irizarry) Johnson, married to Army Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Johnson, was declared the winning Army spouse of Fort Hood, Texas, where her husband is stationed. She went on to compete against other Army spouses in the nationwide Military Spouse of the Year contest. The winners from each branch of the military eventually will face off to be the nation’s No. 1 military spouse.

Johnson was a finalist for the top Army spouse last year, earning recognition for the Remembrance Run events she organized, in which boots tagged with photos of fallen service members from all branches of the military were set up along a course for runners and walkers to remember.

Edged out
However, she was not named in the top 18 last Friday in the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year competition. Three other Army wives advanced in the competition — and that’s no slight to Johnson’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts.

The Army wives advancing in the competition included Rachel O’Hern, who has been featured on BBC for her expertise in the field of providing support for wounded service members; Fort Gordon chaplain’s wife Corie Weathers, a therapist and licensed counselor who has dealt with four deployments and who, along with her husband, has led more than 35 Strong Bonds retreats for couples and spouses of deployed soldiers; and Melissa Gomez, whose husband has been deployed five times and who has been relocated four times, who is a lead singer in the Military Spouses Choir and cited as a problem in the military, “a lack of focus on equipping spouses to be able to detect, address and cope with operational stress that may affect the service member.”

Carrying on for wounded soldiers, families
Johnson will continue her Remembrance Run efforts.

“It was just kind of a unique way to raise awareness,” Johnson said, adding that she wasn’t in the contest merely for the recognition but also because she wanted to promote Fisher House, a lodging program for family members visiting injured service members in the hospital.

“Your home becomes your military community,” Johnson said. “Whenever something happens, your biological family doesn’t really have a place to stay, so when they come in to help you, you can stay there.”

Johnson is the manager at the Fisher House at Fort Hood. She also was a recipient of the program’s services in 2013, when her son, Blake, was injured in a car accident while stationed in Germany. She stayed for three months at the Fisher House near Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to see him.

“Fisher House is very personal to me, because if it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able be with my son the way I was,” she said.

The other reason she organized the Remembrance Run was to provide a space for family and friends of fallen service members to deal with their losses.

“That was their opportunity to kind of close the gap,” Johnson said. “They don’t necessarily have the right opportunity to process the loss of their battle buddies, because they have to stay in the fight and stay focused.”

Expanding her efforts
A loss close to her was the death of family friend Pfc. Timothy Vimoto, who was killed in action in 2007. Now, Johnson is looking forward to seeing her Remembrance Run spread in May to Fort Bragg, N.C., where Vimoto’s family is.

After beginning the event in Hawaii, where she originally was stationed, Johnson has seen the run at Fort Hood and Fort Campbell, Ky. Plans are in the works to hold more runs at Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Liss, Texas and Fort Riley, Kan., she said.

Fellow St. Bede graduate Brenda Rick Smith lost touch with Johnson after high school but later reconnected through Facebook.

“I see these pictures popping up on Facebook of all these boots, and I wondered what was going on,” said Smith, a Tonica native now in Louisville, Ky. “Everything I’ve seen from her has been so uplifting and encouraging … She’s so passionate about what she does; I think she’s a great resource for the military community.”

Before Friday, Smith thought Johnson had a chance to be named No. 1 Army spouse, or even Military Spouse of the Year.

“I think she does have a good chance, simply because her influence has spread,” Smith said in January. “She’s now spread this run around the country, so that has a huge impact.”

Whether Johnson wins the contest or not she is focused on the missions of Fisher House and the Remembrance Runs.

“It’s not about how awesome I am as a spouse, but it’s about what we did. The contest for me is about showing that one person can have a dream and act on it, and if you share it, it can be life-changing for many people. It’s brought thousands of people together.”

Source: News Tribune