by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs
7/16/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Johnny
Hernandez joined the Air Force in 1981 with dreams of flying. However,
the cost of education prevented him from becoming a pilot, so he settled
for a job as a tactical aircraft maintenance specialist.
The job allowed him to travel the world, where highlights of his career
included serving in Germany, England, Kuwait, Korea, Saudi Arabia and
After being treated for several ear infections, he was referred to
different specialists. In 1987, Hernandez underwent a computerized axial
tomography scan and was diagnosed with cancer.
It took two surgeries to remove it, leaving a scar that reached above his left ear down to his throat.
"When you almost lose your life ... you don't feel indestructible anymore," Hernandez said.
"You realize you can be hurt."
He was now completely deaf in his left ear and considers his biggest
challenge being told he would not be able to continue in his career
field. "It made me keep pressing forward," he said.
Hernandez convinced the doctors to let him keep going on the condition
that he report his condition getting any worse. It never did.
He retired in 2001 and became a recovery care coordinator at the Warrior Transition Unit on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Motivated by his experiences with cancer, Hernandez is dedicated to
helping military members access their benefits, from education to
"I want to share my story with others," he said. "It really brings what
I'm doing here into perspective. I'm extremely passionate about people."