Lt. Col. Anthony “AJ” Johnson, MD ’98 (back row, far left), with the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team at the 2012 Paralympics Games in London. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Anthony “AJ” Johnson
Anthony “AJ” Johnson, MD ’98, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, serving as vice chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at San Antonio (Texas) Military Medical Center. In addition, he is custodian of the Military Orthopaedic Trauma Registry and team physician for U.S. Armed Forces Martial Arts and Soccer and a medical volunteer with the U.S. Paralympics Committee.
I’ve always maintained that my dad and West Point made me the man that I am, while UCLA made me the doctor I am. Today, when people see me in uniform or see my military ID, most of them stop to say, “Thank you for your service.” While I appreciate the gratitude and sentiment (and quite often the beers … especially the beers), I want to tell them that the military does not have a monopoly on service. Sure, I am proud of my two Bronze Stars earned during three deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, but these aren’t the accomplishments of which my family is most proud.
My family is most proud of my current volunteer role for the U.S. Paralympics Committee as the physician for Team USA Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball. Do you want to be inspired? Have you ever watched a triple amputee play international wheelchair basketball? Do you want to be awed? Have you ever watched a double-upper-extremity amputee compete in archery? The Paralympics Movement, which began in London in 1948 as the Stoke Mandeville Games, strives to use the performances and incredible stories of each athlete to teach the values of acceptance and appreciation for people with a disability by linking sport with social awareness. The movement also can serve as an avenue of healing for the some 50,000 servicemen and servicewomen injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 1,500 of whom are amputees.