Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marine Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson, 23, of Forsyth, Mont.

Sgt. Johnson was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Jan. 27, 2009 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Also killed was Sgt. David W. Wallace III.

Montanan killed in blast called ‘perfect Marine’
By Matthew Brown
The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — A sergeant killed this week in Afghanistan was described Thursday as a country boy from a cattle ranch who grew up to become “the perfect Marine” and a loving father to two children.

Trevor J. Johnson, 23, was a fifth-generation rancher who grew up south of Forsyth near Colstrip. He was killed Tuesday in an explosion in Helmand province.

His parents, Colleen and Thomas Johnson, said their son was leading a foot patrol charged with clearing a route of explosives when he was struck by the blast from an improvised explosive device.

They said their son, who joined the Marines right out of high school, routinely took the point position on patrols during his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It was never about him. It was always about the guys in the unit with him,” Colleen Johnson said.

A second Marine from Camp Lejeune, Sgt. David Wallace of Sharpsville, Pa., also was killed Tuesday. Wallace’s mother said her son was killed in an explosion, but it was unclear if the two deaths were related.

A Marine spokesman, Lt. Philip Klay, said no additional details were available.

Johnson was an engineer with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He is survived by his wife, Nicole, a 3-year-old stepson, Landan, and the couple’s 8-month-old daughter, Aspyn.

“He was such a great dad, and just before he deployed he made sure there was new playset out in the backyard for his two kids,” Colleen Johnson said.

Johnson’s fellow Marines had nicknamed him “Hollywood,” in part because he had been called up on stage during a USO show in Iraq that featured the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, his mother said.

Johnson’s grandfathers had both served in the military, and he decided he would follow in their footsteps while still a young boy, his parents said.

That future was sealed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, his father said. After that day, Thomas Johnson said his son adopted a personal slogan: “I can defend those who can’t defend themselves.”

When he was a junior at Colstrip High School, his parents took Johnson to visit at least seven universities and vocational programs, hoping he would pick a different path. But they said their son was insistent and joined the Marines within months of graduating.

Terry Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and friend of the Johnsons who owns a hardware store in Colstrip, had counseled Trevor on life in the military before the 18-year-old was shipped off to boot camp.

“He was, in my opinion, the perfect Marine,” Taylor said. “He had the chiseled good looks, he had the athletic ability, he had the intelligence, he had the courage and he had the heart to do it ... But he was still Trevor Johnson, a country boy from Rosebud County.”

Johnson was promoted to sergeant at age 20 and received numerous awards for his service and conduct. He had planned to enroll at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall to seek an engineering degree, and then return to the military, his mother said.

Johnson was the 34th service member from Montana to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the office of Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A memorial service is planned in Colstrip, his father said.

Mont. flags to fly at half-staff in tribute
The Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — Gov. Brian Schweitzer has ordered that the state and U.S. flags be flown at half staff Feb. 6 and 7 in honor of U.S. Marine Sgt. Trevor Johnson, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Johnson, 23, of Colstrip, died Jan. 27 in an explosion in Helmand province. A memorial service is planned Saturday on the family ranch. He will be buried later at Arlington National Cemetery.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Nikki; and their two children, 3-year-old son Landan and 8-month-old daughter Aspyn.

Marine killed in Afghanistan remembered
The Associated Press

FORSYTH, Mont. — A Colstrip Marine who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan was remembered Saturday as a “hero” who was “always in the front” during his duties in the military.

About 600 people attended the memorial service of 23-year-old Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson, who was killed in the Helmand province on Jan. 27 during combat operations.

A procession of more than 100 vehicles stretching about a mile long traveled from a baseball field in Colstrip east to the Johnson family ranch.

As their 3-year-old son Landan and 8-month-old daughter Aspyn sat with family, Johnson’s wife Nikki said her husband was “the most amazing man in the world.”

She described him as “always in the front” during his Marine duties because “he didn’t sign up to sit behind a desk.”

While they may not remember him, their children will “grow up knowing their dad’s a hero,” she said.

Johnson received military honors, including the playing of taps and a volley of gunfire, from fellow Marines. He also was awarded a Purple Heart and a folded American flag was presented to his family during the service, which was attended by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Johnson’s father, Tom, said “Trevor did what he was doing for everybody in America,” and he wished he had half the courage his son had.

The younger Johnson, a fifth-generation rancher, was an engineer with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. His parents said he joined the Marines right out of high school and routinely took the point position on patrols during his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Feb. 24.

Mustang escorted MT soldier’s body to Arlington
By Chelsi Moy

MISSOULA, Mont. — When Marine Corps Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson of Forsyth was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Tuesday, a small symbol of the fallen soldier’s ranching roots helped carry him there.

It seemed only appropriate that Johnson — a fifth-generation Montanan who grew up riding horses, herding cattle and mending fences — be escorted to his burial plot by Lonesome, a black mustang that once roamed the prairies and forested trails of this state.

Lonesome is one of 52 horses in the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd United States Infantry. Over the past seven years, the mustang has helped pull the caisson for 500 military funerals at Arlington Cemetery, assuming one of two lead spots on a six-horse team.

Prior to his mission out East, however, Lonesome lived in Montana.

How the horse came to assist in Johnson’s interment ceremony on Tuesday took some forethought and initiative by a generous Montanan, who although he never met Johnson, wanted the Marine’s family to have a symbol of the state as they mourned the loss of a loved one so many, many miles from home.

“I felt so bad for his family,” said Mark Sant, an archaeologist from Silver Star, just south of Butte. “He’s just a young ranch kid. He seemed to have liked horses as much as I do.”

All Sant knew about the Colstrip High School graduate was what he read in the newspaper after his death. Johnson, 23, a decorated Marine, was killed by a roadside bomb on Jan. 27 while serving in Afghanistan.

Johnson was a father, son and husband. His memorial service was held Feb. 7 at the family ranch southeast of Forsyth. Six hundred people attended.

When Sant read that Johnson would be buried at Arlington, he e-mailed Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office to seek help finding Lonesome, a horse Sant had donated to the military several years ago.

One of Schweitzer’s aides contacted the Montana National Guard, which in turn contacted the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, which assists in burial services at Arlington National Cemetery.

It’s not a request the Old Guard hears often, but one that was easy to oblige, said Maj. Steven Cole.

“It’s stories like this that show the depths of care that all Americans have for their service men and women,” Cole said. “It took someone saying, ‘Can we do this?’ and Chief (Anthony) Direnzo saying, ‘No problem.’ “

Lonesome was born in a Bureau of Land Management holding pen in Montana.

Both his sire, a black mustang, and his dam, a paint from Nevada, were among several mustangs repossessed by the BLM from someone with inadequate holding facilities.

A BLM law enforcement officer first adopted Lonesome before Sant bought him several years later.

“He was a good-looking horse,” said Sant, describing Lonesome as hardy and strong with tough feet. “I know a lot of people who don’t even have to shoe mustangs.”

Sant owned several other horses but had always wanted a mustang. He took Lonesome into the Pioneer and Sentinel mountains, hunting, packing and trail riding for several years. But the horse grew too big for recreational activities, Sant said.

When Lonesome was 7, Sant donated him to the Old Guard.

“I thought it’d be a great honor for him to work at Arlington,” he said.

Lonesome is now 14. For the past seven years, he has split the time between Fort Myer, Va., adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, and Fort Belvoir, Va., where the military takes the horses for rest and relaxation.

The Old Guard looks for both gray and black horses younger than 9. Most are draft-quarter horse crosses, Percherons, Morgans or mustangs. Cole said that to his knowledge, Lonesome is the only mustang from Montana.

Marine Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson was killed in action on 1/27/09.

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