By Airman 1st Class Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Continuously smiling, laughing and going out of his way to help people is what John Perry is most known for. He speaks college football as a second language and is said to be arguably the biggest University of Alabama fan.
You can find Perry, an Army and Air Force Exchange Services Base Exchange senior store associate, at Little Rock Air force Base, actively searching for customers in need of assistance.
Assistance is something all too familiar with Perry.
He was born disabled, paralyzed from the neck down.
Though physical limitations prevented him from enlisting in the military, Perry found a way to serve and has been doing so for the past 13 years.
During those long days, Perry, who is also a passionate member and vocalist at his church, said he keeps a “can do, will do” attitude and remains motivated by his faith, family and friends.
“My relationship with Jesus Christ is why I am able to do what I do,” he said. “[Jesus] helps me to get through. He helps me wake up and want to live life.”
Working at the Exchange, Perry said he’s honored to serve the people who serve the country and put their lives on the line every day. He said he has a simple, fail proof view on customer service.
“I try to please the customer,” he said. “I try to make sure they’re happy when they come in here. I make sure that when they leave, they’ve had a good experience. Most of all, I treat them the way I want to be treated.”
Perry’s personality is a magnet for creating friendships and loyal customers. Customers ask for him by name for product questions, college football banter, or just small talk.
“I enjoy talking to the customers,” Perry said. “That is a big reason why I love working here. I get to know a lot of them, and they’ll come and talk to me about a lot of different things.”
In 2014 Perry was awarded the Department of Defense Outstanding Individual with a Disability Award. Perry was unable to make it to Washington D.C. to accept his award, so Maj. Gen. Joseph Ward, Exchange Deputy Director, made his way to Little Rock AFB, to recognize Perry in person.
“It was a real honor to receive this award,” said Perry. “I didn’t know why I was being recognized, because I am just doing my job. It was a great day.”
Knowing he did not win the award by himself, he was quick to attribute his success to the great teamwork he has with his co-workers.
“I wanted to tell my co-workers how much I appreciated them,” he said. “When I need something, they are always there to help me. They don’t mind going out of their way.”
Perry’s strong personality and uplifting spirit towers over his disability. When seeing John Perry for the first time, the focus might be on his chair, but while talking to him, the chair disappears and a strong, happy, positive, confident man presents himself.