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SSG Diane Johnson (Retired) is our Veteran’s Specialist and also our Paralegal.  She served in the US Army for 16 years were she retired after being wounded in Afghanistan at the end of 2010.

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Diane M. Johnson

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Diane M. Johnson

Veteran's Specialist, Paralegal, U.S. Army Veteran
Habiger & Associates Elder Law Office
1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918

                   

SSG Diane Johnson (Retired) is our Veteran’s Specialist and also our Paralegal.  She served in the US Army for 16 years were she retired after being wounded in Afghanistan at the end of 2010.

SSG Diane Johnson was awarded the patches of 101st Air Assault class and 82nd Airborne Paratrooper class.  She has also served in Grenada, Gulf, and Desert Storm, 2 Tours in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

SSG Johnson speaks 5 languages and was a Military Intelligence Specialist and was attached to the 75th Ranger regiment in Afghanistan.   On a typical mission, SSG Johnson would go into a village to speak with the women to gain information to pass on to the Infantry for the Mission.  In 2010 the cold seeped into SSG Johnson’s bones as she faced the scariest challenge of her army career.

Stationed in Afghanistan, on her first tour in country, she was just a few meters from a device containing enough explosives to kill 10 men.  When they entered into Helmand Province, putting on a burka, she noticed a goat farmer coming up the right side outside of the village.   Gunshots erupted, as the Taliban Goat farmer fired ­directly at her and the other three men in her team.  Johnson acted quickly. “I saw him and fired back”.

“You don’t think; you act. Your adrenaline kicks in, as does your training and you focus on the job at hand.  I was more worried about the safety of the others than I was about myself”.

This is when SSG Johnson noticed that she had been hit twice in the abdomen by 2 rounds.

Having a “bad day at the office” is the way that soldiers joke about being ­injured or killed, which is always a possibility with around 1,000 IEDs ­being planted in Afghanistan every month or snipers trying to pick you off.

 “Thinking about death is ­unavoidable. I’d go out ­sometimes and I’d feel very ­uncomfortable, and when I got back to the wire I’d just be glad I made it home”.

"I didn’t think about death on a daily basis, but death and injury happen a lot and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about them.”  The worst thing if you’d been out of the wire is getting back and finding out that someone had been killed or injured.

"It makes me tearful just thinking about it; it was just ­horrendous. When it happened, everybody went off into their own little world.

"We’d go from having a laugh to total silence. You could hear a pin drop and it would stay like that for the rest of the day.

“Conditions in the FOB “Forward Operating Base.” included us being given shower bags which you filled from a well and the toilet was a box with a home-made set in a rough cubicle.  Any waste was caught in a bag, which had to be burned.

“There were around five 16-man tents in the camp, which was ­basically a dusty desert in the ­middle of nowhere.  Each tent was split into four and there was very little ­privacy.”

"Conditions out in the field were incredibly challenging.  The Tour in Afghanistan is usually 13 months.

“The temperatures ranged from freezing to 110 degrees. "You have a sweatband under your helmet, but you have to wear goggles to protect your eyes from explosions and they get all steamed up.

“There were times when I ­physically couldn’t lift my Assault Pack any longer and the rangers had to help me.  Sometimes I couldn’t get across a ditch ­because I had sunk up to my waist in mud and couldn’t move my legs. They had to drag me out of it.

"My payment for their help was to make the tea later,” said Johnson.

Even though you’re in the Army, they still do their bit to help you – like lifting my pack on to my back when it was just too heavy.   There is a lot of banter and that is one of the things that really helps to keep you sane.  After work we would relax by watching DVDs on our laptops, playing cards or reading.”

Still, Johnson has no regrets at all about risking her life.  After we had cleared the ­villages and the families had moved back in, it was very rewarding.  The villagers were really appreciative and it was quite moving.

“But the best experience was coming back home alive.  A bad day (that is, a hectic day) at the office in my job at Habiger & Associates Elder Law Office (HAELO) is very different from having a bad day when I was in Afghanistan.”

Johnson says the most rewarding part about her job at HAELO is that she is in constant contact with Veterans from WW2, Korea, Vietnam and OIF, OEF Conflicts.  She is very compassionate regarding her brother and sisters in arms and their dependants, “My job is to never leave a fallen comrade”, and to help the Veterans receive the benefits that are due to them.  HOOAH.....

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1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529
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Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: (618) 985-4529
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Physical Address
1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529

Mailing Address
1808 Clark Street
Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: (618) 985-4529