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E.J.'s Narrative

"Every day I see people who are going through tough and stressful situations.  It makes me think about if, or when, some of these things may happen to me."

Ernest (EJ) Johnson is a 28 year old male who was born in Bridgeport, CT.  He was raised by his mother and father and has 4 sisters, 2 older and 2 younger.  EJ graduated from Central High School in Bridgeport in 2002.  After graduation, EJ signed up for the Army.  In January of 2003 he attended Basic Training and in November 2003 was deployed and served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Special Electronic Device Repairman. 

In December of 2006, EJ returned from the military.  During EJ's transition from military life to civilian life his focus was to keep on surviving.  "Although I still had my old friends from my hometown to hang out with I knew I had changed.  In the military you learn to grow up fast whereas my friends back home entered adulthood in a more normal setting.  There is a major lifestyle difference between military and civilian life.  When you are in the military it is like prison.  When you come back you are thrown into a whole other culture.  It's a very different feeling from when you left.  You have to re-learn how to do everything again. You experience a new style of clothing, music and what and where the fun places to chill with friends are.  This transition was a very torturous time for me but school really helped me to remain focused during this time."

In the Fall of 2007, EJ began taking classes at Housatonic Community College and was studying Theater.  During his time at Housatonic Community College he worked as a Veterans Representative, helping Veterans transition from military to civilian life.  EJ learned about the Errera Community Care Center from a fellow Veteran student who was using the Errera Center for services. 

"Recovery is getting better from being bad and a constant process in an individual's life.  Being bad is not staying up to what you feel your standards should be.  I was trying to get that same feeling I had on the base back.  Booze was a way for me to do that.  I didn't know how to start working towards my life goal of wanting to become an Actor.   I had to retrain my brain and learn all over again what was fun without booze and get used to living on my own again."

During his time at Housatonic Community College, EJ worked as a Veterans Representative, helping Veterans transition from military to civilian life.  EJ learned about the Errera Community Care Center from a fellow Veteran student who was using the Errera Center for services. 

While employed as a Veterans Representative at Housatonic, Laurie Harkness, Director of the Errera Community Care Center, invited EJ to come and meet with her to discuss his work at Housatonic and to provide him with a tour of the center. 

In 2011, about one year after his meeting with Laurie Harkness, EJ was hired at the Errera Community Care Center as a Peer Employment Specialist helping Veterans find and return to work.

"One thing I recognize through my work is the stuff I may complain about or the issues I am dealing with aren't as bad as what others might be going through."

EJ feels that the Errera Community Care Center has been a very insightful place to work.  "At the Ererra Community Care Center you have a lot of different viewpoints.  Some people are doing really well and others need more assistance but you can take something from each person.  EJ believes that he is not just helping the Veterans he works with but he is learning from them at the same time. 

"I have a strong passion for wanting to save the world by helping Veterans.  I see the work I do as paying it forward for what has been done for me.  By helping one particular area get to a better place, makes it a little easier to move forward and help other areas." 

"One day I would like to open up my own Veteran Recovery Place.  I envision it as a combination between the Errera Community Care Center and a Vet Center.  I would make it more hands on and would make sure I personally met every person that was coming in to use the center."

"I believe the Errera Community Care Center has a positive impact on the Veterans who use it but it has a bigger impact then just that.  It gives the Veterans the ability to rebuild their lives from scratch.  Whatever has happened to the person has happened but the Errera Community Care Center gives the Veteran a second chance at their lives."

When I asked EJ what impact he feels he has on the Veterans he works with he said an entertaining one.  "I like to talk with the Veterans as if they are my friends.  I feel that I can help to lighten their moods because they might not be having the best of days and I want to be able to give them something to smile about."

"Life is too short to waste time.  If you need to do something you should do it now because you don't want it to be too late. 

 

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