2016 Navy Times
Winner
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Samuel Johnson

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Samuel Johnson knows how hard it can be for veterans to return home from a war zone. After a difficult deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, he recognized that he was having trouble reforming connections with friends and family.

“I have a good group of friends and I’m really close to my family,” he said. “And when I got back from deployment I just wasn’t reestablishing the relationships I had. I was withdrawing and wasn’t being the healthiest person on earth. So I began to seek a change.”

He came across Team Red, White & Blue, an organization that creates a community among veterans and civilians through sports and social events. To his surprise, he found that the group didn’t have a big chapter in the Hampton Roads area.

So he got to work.

Johnson took leadership of the chapter, donning the trademark red shirts with the slogan, “enriching veterans’ lives” on the back and taking his small group to local events and 5K races around Hampton Roads. And as people came up to them and word spread, Johnson’s chapter grew. And it grew.

Today the Hampton Roads chapter he leads has more than 1,200 members, a mix of post-9/11 veterans, sailors and vets from other eras and even civilians who want to be involved. Johnson says he puts between 35 and 45 hours a week into Team Red, White & Blue, practically a full-time job.

And if leading a 1,200-person group in his off time wasn’t enough, he’s also a star at Navy Environmental and Preventative Medicine Unit 2, said HMC Thomas DeWitt.

“People want to emulate him,” DeWitt said.