Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Army Spc. Joseph D. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joseph D. Johnson, 24, of Flint, Mich.

Spc. Johnson was assigned to the 161st Engineer Support Company, 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died June 16, 2010 in North Kunduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed in the attack was Pfc. Gunnar R. Hotchkin.

MUNDY TOWNSHIP -- A 24-year-old soldier from the Flint area has been killed in fighting in Afghanistan, a funeral home announced today.
Army Spc. Joseph D. Johnson died Wednesday in combat in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, according to Sharp Funeral Home in Swartz Creek.

An improvised explosive device hit his vehicle, family members told WNEM-TV. There was no official Pentagon statement by midday today.

“He was very passionate about serving his country and considered it a privilege and an honor,” cousin Cheryl Marshall of Flint Township told The Flint Journal.

The funeral will be held at Central Church of the Nazarene, the funeral home said. It said relatives were still making arrangements and awaiting the return of Johnson’s body.

Joey Johnson was born in Flint and graduated from Carman-Ainsworth High School in 2004. He enlisted in the Army in 2006 and went to Afghanistan in December.

“I’m just so extremely proud of him and the sacrifice he has made,” said his grandmother, Glenna Maxwell of Flint Township. “It’ll never replace him, and I can’t imagine my life without him in it, but somehow it’ll be OK and I’ll see him again some day.”

Maxwell said her grandson was known as a practical joker who loved to make people laugh.

“When he decided to enter the military, he went in with both feet,” his grandmother said. “He was just truly a solider through and through.”

Johnson enjoyed snowmobiling, fishing and camping, said a childhood friend, Navy Airman Joel Metzger, 24, of North Island Coronado, Calif.

“The memories I have with him, I wouldn’t trade for the world,” Metzger said. “I wouldn’t ask for anything better.”

Childhood friend Jim Loftis, 24, said Johnson was a “stand up guy” who brightened a room when he walked in.

“Joey, he was always one of the energetic, happy ones,” said Loftis, who now lives in Florida. “Everybody liked being around him.”

He said Johnson was passionate and driven in every aspect of his life.

“He put is heart and soul behind the military, and I can’t imagine a better soldier,” said Loftis.

Metzger, who is currently stationed in North Island Coronado, Calif., said they spoke recently about what the military had done for them, and Johnson said he was excited about plans to settle down and go to college once he got out of the Army.

Johnson was also dedicated to his family and was a great friend, said Metzger.

Jim Pope was U.S. Army Spc. Joseph Johnson's youth director at Central Church of the Nazarene in Flint.

He was "devastated" to hear the 24-year-old died.

Joseph Johnson died in combat on Wednesday in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Pope led Johnson and other high schoolers to Memphis, Tenn., on annual mission trips to help with home repairs in low income neighborhoods.

Johnson graduated from Carman-Ainsworth High School in 2004.

Johnson would help everyone with their work, Pope said.

"Joey was such a hard-worker and full of life. He really was the guy everyone wanted around," he said. "He made life enjoyable for the people around him."

Teri Johnson said her son accepted the dangers of his job because he knew how important it was.

"He said, 'For every mine, for every IED that we find and we destroy, we save someone's life,' " she said.

One of Johnson's superiors praised him for the work he did in Afghanistan.

"Spc. Johnson was a charismatic, natural leader with a quick wit and smile," said Capt. Andy Glenn, company commander for the 161st Engineering Support Company, in a statement. "He always fought to be a dismount on patrols, to be one of the soldiers that actually looked for the IEDs. Spc. Johnson took time every day to help teach and train others. He always placed the mission and his fellow soldiers ahead of himself."

Spc. Johnson's awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Driver Badge with Driver Wheeled Vehicles.

Teri Johnson said she was in shock when she was told of her son's death.

"As a military mom, you know that there's a possibility," she said. "But when they came to the door, it was like a dream. You just can't believe that this is happening."

Johnson was known by his family as a practical jokester who loved to laugh and a sportsman who loved the outdoors.

"Joe was an adventurer," Teri Johnson said. "He loved hunting, the outdoors, four-wheeling."

That adventurous nature could be seen in Afghanistan as well, Teri Johnson said.

She said her son, a team leader for route clearance operations, would volunteer to take closer looks at suspected bombs and that he never shied away from interacting with the Afghan people.

"He had a great fondness for the Afghan people," his mother said, recalling a picture of her son sitting on a donkey and laughing with a group of children. "Joe loved to laugh; he loved life."

The deployment was the first for Johnson and Hotchkin. They were due home in December.

Johnson's mother said her son joined the military in 2006 after attending college because he was unsure what he wanted to do.

"College just didn't seem to suit what he wanted to do," Teri Johnson said. "In the Army, he found his place."

Spc. Johnson was a loving son, brother and uncle, Teri Johnson said. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Dennis Johnson; a sister, Jennifer Pollak, and her husband, Nicholas; and five nephews.

Army Spc. Joseph D. Johnson was killed in action on 6/16/10.

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