Mother of four hopes to inspire other women after receiving special welding honor

Posted at 6:23 PM, May 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 18:23:15-04

Newport News, Va. - Heather Wright-Johnson was getting desperate for a job 11 years ago.

"I was willing to give anything a try I guess at that point I was just looking for a job. Just kind of appealed to me to come to the shipyard and see what I could do."

Even today, Wright Johnson can't believe she's welding together a nuclear submarine.

"I never imagined that when I got a job as a welder that I would wind up falling in love with it and really enjoying it. It's something I decided to stick with for a while."

She's one of only 56 women welders at the Newport News shipyard.

But on Saturday, she'll become the only woman to take part in the Keel Laying Ceremony for the soon to be built USS Indiana.

"The ship's sponsor will put her initials on a steel plate and what I will do is weld over the top of her initials and then that plate will be welded to the outside of the submarine,” says Wright-Johnson.

It's a big honor for ship welders, but for Wright-Johnson there will be even more pressure.

"In the past, most of the sponsors have done block lettering. This time, she threw a twist in and has some cursive writing in there. She has beautiful handwriting but it's going to be a little bit of a challenge, but I think I can handle it."

The Indiana will be the latest Virginia class nuclear attack sub to come out of the shipyard when it's completed in 2017.

As for this mother of four, she hopes other women and young girls will see her as an inspiration.

"Dream big and don't give up on yourself, and if the boys and do it, you can do it too."