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In the Same Boat,
On the Same Team
In the Same Boat,
On the Same Team

Go halfway around the world with two military spouses and colleagues at Johnson & Johnson to feel the spirit of Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

Part One: In Deep Water

Dealing with the challenges of deployments was nothing new for Alison, whose husband is a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. But this one was different.

Near the end of a six-month deployment, she learned that her husband’s ship, one of the world’s largest aircraft carriers, wasn’t about to speed him home, as expected.


Alison W., Head of Talent Acquisition, NA Pharm Commercial at Johnson & Johnson

Instead, responding to a global crisis, it had turned back around.

After six months away, her husband's timeline for return started veering off course as well: “First, it was October 31, then November 31, then December 17, then sometime in January…"

One such update came while Alison was not only at work, but in the middle of a meeting.

“I received word that there was ‘no way’ my husband’s ship would be back in time for Christmas,” she recalls. “It was a scary and overwhelming moment.” Needing to step away, she messaged her manager, who promptly took over. “I knew he had my back,” Alison says. “Support like that matters.”

And of course, it does. But it’s a far cry from the only reason why, even as ship-bound comms shut down, she says she never felt alone.

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There's an incredibly active military-connected community at Johnson & Johnson, and the people are amazing. Still, I never thought I’d meet someone who would help me get through one of the most difficult periods in my life.

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Part Two: A Community of Support

Enter Alex, Alison’s colleague at Johnson & Johnson, fellow military spouse—and someone with whom she shares an unusual amount of common ground. For example:

  • Both joined Johnson & Johnson via leadership development programs.
  • Both work 100% remotely, which can be an important flexibility option for military spouses. 
  • Both have husbands in the U.S. Navy, and those husbands at this time happened to be on the very same ship. 

This last detail they stumbled upon a few months prior, during a virtual meeting of the Veterans Leadership Council (VLC), our award-winning Employee Resource Group (ERG) for the military-connected community, and had kept in touch ever since. But now they were communicating daily. “It all fell into place at the right time,” Alex says.


Alex M., Senior Financial Analyst at Johnson & Johnson

Yet even with Alison’s support ("She was my rock”), Alex describes this initial period as “an incredibly hectic, chaotic and stressful time." She isn’t exaggerating: Uncertainty around her spouse aside, Alex was also carrying out business-critical financial close processes, coordinating her family’s relocation to Florida and caring for two young children, aged two and four. All by herself. All at the same time.

A lot for anyone to handle, and the backdrop against which she and Alison were swapping notes. “We wanted reassurance that our husbands were safe, but we didn’t know what would happen next,” Alex says.

A possible answer came on December 22, but calling it an early Christmas present is probably a stretch. “We learned that our husbands might be making a port call in a few days in Greece, but there weren’t any guarantees,” Alison says.

Still, the news led to lively debate, culminating in the following according to Alex. “Alison was adamant: ‘I’m going to Greece.’ And I said, ‘If you’re going, I’m going, too.’”

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It’s pretty unusual to have someone who understands what you're going through and experiencing on an almost intuitive level.

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Part Three: Going the Extra Mile

From opposite corners of the country, Alison—who lives in Washington—and Alex—based in Virginia at the time—flew separately to Greece, braving 30-plus-hour travel itineraries to link up in Athens.


A view from deck on the ship in question

There, halfway around the world on the day after Christmas, two bleary-eyed colleagues from Johnson & Johnson met for the first time in person.

“It was such an exciting moment and we couldn’t believe we pulled it off—I think we literally jumped on each other!” Alex says, laughing.

Many such moments followed, as their husbands were able to join them. The reunited couples dined together that evening, celebrating with toasts to Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. Navy for bringing them together.

“This is a friendship for life,” Alison says, adding, “I don’t think either of us would’ve gone to Greece without the other."

Alex agrees: “I’m so grateful to Alison, I truly don’t know what I would’ve done without her."

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Getting back into a normal routine, having dad be part of everything again—all of that is a process, and it has to happen right alongside the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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Part Four: Reintegration in Focus

Of course, Alison and Alex’s story doesn’t end with their husband’s homecomings in January 2024, eight-and-a-half months after those deployments began. Reintegration is sort of like the opposite of quarantine. What’s healthful and necessary, after so much time away, is breathing the same air, and allowing for sometimes messy exchange.


While one story ends with a spouse's return from deployment, another one begins

“There was so much joy and happiness in Greece, but there was also sorrow, especially on the last night,” Alison says. “Birthdays and milestones were missed. That’s part of the story, too.”

She continues, “So while the perception is that it’s simply awesome to finally have this person back in your life—and it is awesome, don’t get me wrong—the reality is that you have to deal with challenges. It takes patience, and you have to be willing to make adjustments.”

With that in mind, Alison and Alex were grateful for policies designed to make these transitions easier for military spouses at Johnson & Johnson: for example, the option to take 10 days of PTO per year for military-connected events like a spouse’s deployment, which both Alison and Alex did.

“Getting back into a normal routine, having dad be part of everything again—all of that is a process, yet it has to happen right alongside the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” Alex says.

And while the friendship between Alison and Alex is rooted in the experience of a shared challenge, it remains just as strong today. “It’s unusual to have someone who understands what you're going through and experiencing on an almost intuitive level,” Alex says. “It’s pretty amazing.”

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Having a policy supporting military spouses with reintegration is one thing, but having leaders in your corner who are encouraging you to take time off and communicating to your team what’s going on is something else. Maybe that's the biggest difference about support for the military-connected community at Johnson & Johnson: You don't just hear about it. You see it and you feel it, especially when it counts.

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Join Forces With Our Military-Connected Community

Unlike ships in the night, military-connected employees at Johnson & Johnson are a tight-knit group, and we do everything we can to support them in turn. Alison's and Alex's recent much-needed PTO is one example of tha. But there are many other reasons why we’re part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership, too.

What's the best next step for you?

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