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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Advice from an Older Military Teen



While being interviewed for a scholarship, I was asked a question I hadn’t considered before: "What is one piece of advice you would pass on to military kids?" 


As a military teen who is almost not a teen anymore, I began to think about all of the younger military teens who I know will go through many of the same challenges and experiences I did. 


There is so much advice I wish I could pass on to younger military teens, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. In an effort to make military life a tad bit easier for them, I talked to an older teen to see what their one piece of advice would be. 


I spoke to Violet Johnston, a military teen also attending UNC-Chapel Hill whose ambition and talent immediately caught my attention. 


Violet’s father is an endocrine surgeon in the Navy, and her mother was a regional director for the American Red Cross. She grew up primarily in Japan, Virginia and Italy, attending a DoDEA school, which she said was an incredible opportunity. 


“I loved being in a place where all these cultures mesh together and learning about so many new things, especially after growing up in kind of a small country town in Virginia for a little while,” said Violet.


Living on a close-knit military base in Naples, Italy led Violet to explore ways to help the community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic by getting involved with the local Red Cross organization and getting groceries for families stuck in quarantine.


“There was kind of this community sense of wanting to help, of feeling like you have a duty to help everyone,” said Violet. 


However, she said her proudest accomplishment during the pandemic was her work as a volunteer for the Trap-Neuter-Release program, where she worked to rescue neonatal kittens. 


Naples, Italy, had a terrible feral cat problem,” said Violet. “It was so overpopulated that feral cat disease would spread rapidly, eventually affecting domestic animals belonging to military families. So a bunch of military spouses got together, and with the Navy's help, we were able to trap these cats, vaccinate them, sterilize them, and release them back onto the community base.”


Working for the TNR taught Violet a variety of skills, whether it was how to save a kitten from a car engine or how to administer basic veterinary care. After the kittens were treated, they were found homes, often on military bases in Germany or across Italy. 


“We rescued over 55 kittens in the span of a couple of months, and then also humanely trapped and fixed, around 75 adult cats,” said Violet. “That is something I’m very proud of.”


So, what’s Violet’s advice to younger military teens? Take the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone.


“You never know what you may or may not like,” said Violet. “You'll find that when you go to new schools or when you travel often, it's quite difficult to step outside your comfort zone and constantly meet new people. But if you give new things a try, you may end up discovering a passion you never thought you had, just like I did for veterinary medicine.”

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