You never know who you might meet.  Where they've been. What they've been through. The other day I met Connie Johnson from rural Brandt, South Dakota. Johnson's life so far has been anything but common. After all, she is the first registered 'South Dakota' female recipient of the Purple Heart.

Johnson grew up in Elkton, South Dakota. Her father was a veteran of the Korean War, her brother was in the military as well. The events of September 11, 2001, came along and inspired Connie to enlist.  As we sat in a golf cart outside Spencer Hall on the campus of SDSU as students moved in for the fall semester she told her story.

Johnson was part of the 101st Company stationed in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and was working as a Military Police officer. Later she found herself serving the country doing a tour in Iraq.

Johnson was working as a gunner covering the backside of a 4 vehicle convoy when an IED was remotely detonated.  Johnson was hit with shrapnel from the explosion to the back of the neck. She told me;

"We were working security on the way to one of Sadam's Mosques and were just coming up out of the Tigres River when the blast occurred.  It was night, there was nobody around that we could see when the IED was detonated I got hit on the backside of my neck."

It's not every day you talk with someone who has been positioned as a gunner to cover the rear of a convoy. Not every day you talk to a woman who carried a Beretta, a SAW [Semi Automatic Weapon], or a grenade launcher as a part of their work. And it's certainly not every day you talk to a recipient of The Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is assigned to a soldier injured by enemy means. Johnson told me;

"The Purple Heart is an award many respect, but no one wants to get."

Johnson now works for SDSU as an advocate for Veterans and helps with education benefits for those using the G.I. bill. She added many students are on campus with similar experiences and said,

"SDSU has been named a Purple Heart Campus which is important because that designation says, we recognize those who have served.  When you are a student at SDSU, you never know who you might be sitting next to. Where they've been and what they've been through. People who have traveled the world."

Thank you for sharing this story with your Facebook and Twitter friends. And, thank you again to Connie Johnson for your service to our country!

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