There are so many unsung heroes in our community that tirelessly work behind the scenes to fight for others. Sometimes we never get to meet them but still feel their impact on our community. We got the pleasure of meeting and getting to know about one of these unsung hero’s Loudoun County has to offer. Tanja Thompson’s story of triumph and resilience is remarkable because even while still battling and beating cancer not once but twice, she still managed to put one foot in front of the other and persevered to help others despite her two-time cancer fight.
Q & A with Tanja Thompson
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I was born and raised in Fort Wayne Indiana. I am the oldest of five siblings, raised in a single parent household. Growing up in a small town and then moving to New York was an eye-opener for me. It was there I realized at that point that I could no longer stay in a small town. This was a driving force for me to join the military, which led me to come to the DC Metro area. I am now married to Phillip Thompson; we have three grown children.
Q: What branch of the military were you in?
A: I was in the Air Force. I did 25 years, and I started with the International National Guard. What drew me to the Guard was the education and the fact that I could work one weekend out of the month and two weekends in the summer. That then transferred to a full-time job where I was active duty at an Air Force base in crystal city.
Q: How long have you lived in Loudoun County?
A: We moved to Loudoun County in August of 2005. That was the same year I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time. I was diagnosed in April of 2005, had a bilateral mastectomy May of 2005 and moved here into River Creek August of 2005. So it was a short time from being diagnosed to moving.
Q: What made you decide on living in Loudoun County?
A: That’s another exciting story. Our youngest son Tyson when he was born he weighed 1 pound 5 ounces. He was born at 23 weeks and just at the brink of viability. If he were any younger, they wouldn’t have revived him. He has been on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) since birth. Well when he was five, during his kindergarten assessment, Prince George’s County (where we lived before) was only going to give him 4 hours a week of pull out services to help him with Math, English, Reading, etc. So his kindergarten teacher spoke up and said “4 hours a week? Do you mean 4 hours a day?” and the principal said, “No, 4 hours a week”. “She then replied, “how can he be successful with only 4 hours a week, there are five days in a week, so you are telling me that going to be less than an hour a day.” Because our other son had already been her class 5 years prior, she pulled us aside and advised us to take him out of the Prince George’s school system and put him in another school system if we wanted him to be successful and not a statistic. So I began to do research the different counties school systems around us. I looked at Montgomery County, Anaronda County, and just the houses and the communities did not appeal to us. We had a friend who was living in Loudoun County, and he took us around one day, and he showed us about five different communities, and this was the one we eventually selected. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We always tell people that our children have gotten a private school education in public school because Loudoun county does have the best school in the country.
Q: What made you interested in the NAACP?
A: After I retired, I retired in 2007, I started my own business. With that, I went to some business events, and I met someone who then told me about the NAACP. At the same time as that, while I was serving my 4th term on the social services board, I also met someone else who invited me to the annual freedom fund for the NAACP Loudoun chapter. That was around 2007 to 2008.
Q: Did you have experience with working in the NAACP?
A: One of the things I wanted to do when I got out of the military was to give back to my community. So I volunteered at the Loudoun County Resouce center providing resume writing as well as interviewing classes for individuals who came through the program. So that was one of the things, and then the other thing was as part of the NAACP was, they needed someone to help out with Legal Redress. So wanting justice and giving back to y community just went hand in hand and the NAACP was the perfect place for that.
Q: What is next for you?
A: So I am back in school for my second masters at George Mason studying Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The program I am in actually gives me theories of conflict, the framework of conflict and it gives me the ability on how to diagnosis different issues of conflict but also how to provide interventions as well. My goal is to do consulting with nonprofits and individuals who need mediation.
Thank you to Mrs. Thompson for sitting down with us and sharing her story. This world is so much better because of her and people like her!