Firefighter at Norfolk Fire-Rescue
Jeremy Johns is a Firefighter and Paramedic with Norfolk Fire-Rescue in Norfolk, Virginia. He has been a firefighter for fifteen years, six years with York County Fire and Life Safety, and nine years with Norfolk Fire-Rescue.
Jeremy’s career in the emergency medical field started twenty years ago when he joined the US Army after the attacks of September 11th. He was trained as a Light Infantry Combat Medic in the 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Jeremy has three combat operations deployments in Iraq and conducted operations in major cities like Baghdad, Mosul, Tal Afar, and Balad. His unit was instrumental in providing security to the first-ever democratic elections in 2005. He received training from Special Operations Medical teams that allowed him to be a member of his unit's Forward Surgical Team (FST), part of the unit's medical treatment team, and the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in charge of the units Medical Supply and Logistics team.
Due to a lack of enlistment from his fellow Americans, he was part of the 0.45 percent of Americans who wore the service uniform. This staggering decline in military service led to the incredibly high operational tempo of his unit and its broad range of mission capabilities. The increase in workload, responsibility, and training created a culture of poor mental health within the military and especially among the medical community. He was referred to the Fort Bragg Mental Health Clinic for the evaluation of his issues and struggles.
Diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 he continued to operate within his assigned roles and responsibilities while his own mental health deteriorated. He experienced harassment, shaming, and ridicule from medical professionals at Fort Bragg’s mental health clinics and sought treatment through the militaries, “Military One Source” program which allowed him to receive treatment without the knowledge of his command staff and superiors. It was during this time that he realized the importance of equity of treatment and outcomes. This is where his passion for mental health awareness and treatment would begin.
Jeremy was hired by York County after receiving an honorable discharge from the Army in 2007. With his new mindset of mental health equity and inclusion, he attempted to sway the mindset of the firefighters and his leadership. It wasn’t until he realized that the “kid-glove” approach to dealing with mental health issues was not sufficient and required a more bold and honest conversation. He became very vocal and honest about his mental health and the various treatment modalities he had experienced. This continued after he transitioned to Norfolk Fire-Rescue in 2014 and was welcomed by the department.
Jeremy has an Associates Degree in Emergency Medical Services from Thomas Nelson Community College, holds a Virginia Paramedic certification, and is a Paramedic with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, he was an Adjunct Instructor for the Emergency Medical Services Paramedic Program at Thomas Nelson Community College and served as a Communications Specialist in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Virginia Task Force-2. Jeremy has attended the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Peer Support two-day program and the 2nd Alarm Project (five-day) Peer Support Course. Jeremy also serves on the Norfolk Fire-Rescue Health and Safety Committee, is a Norfolk Live Well Ambassador, and has assisted with the establishment of the department Peer Support Program. Jeremy has given his mental health presentation at the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA) Virginia Fire Rescue Conference, The Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services (VAOEMS) annual EMS symposium, The South Carolina Firefighters Association (SCFA) Fire-Rescue Conference, and the graduating recruits of the Norfolk Regional Fire Academy (NRFA).
Jeremy is married to his wife, Jessica, a Gloucester County Public School Teacher, of twenty years, and has two student-athlete children, Noah (15) and Haley (14).