|From The Seattle Times seattletimes.com
Cpl. Jeremiah Johnson, who dreamed of Army and baseball, dies at age 23
By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter
Perhaps the ground gave way beneath the weight of her son's Humvee, but Elizabeth Johnson doesn't know for sure.
She was taking down Christmas decorations in her Vancouver, Wash., home when she got a call from the U.S. Army on Dec. 26, saying her 23-year-old son, Cpl. Jeremiah Johnson, had been critically injured in a rollover accident while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.
Elizabeth Johnson, her husband, David, and Cpl. Johnson's wife, Gale, flew to Washington, D.C., the next day, got their passports issued to them in an hour and were on a flight to Germany, arriving at an Army hospital in time to spend almost a week at Cpl. Johnson's bedside before he died Friday.
Elizabeth Johnson brought along family photos and bought magazines and sweets for her son, not realizing how grave his condition was. The reality set in only after two neurosurgeons briefed the family, telling them that Cpl. Johnson had suffered severe hypothermia and brain damage after his Humvee tipped over on a road along a canal, pinning him underwater for 10 minutes.
"I said, 'You mean that I will never hear Jeremiah talk to me again?' and they said, 'That's correct. You'll never know Jeremiah the way you have known Jeremiah,' " Elizabeth Johnson said Tuesday from Vancouver.
"I have never cried that deep inner [cry], you know? Jeremiah was the most awesome son you could ever hope for. He was the boy next door, the kind of boy you'd want your daughter to marry," she said.
Cpl. Johnson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, according to the Army. Also killed were two soldiers in Cpl. Johnson's unit: Spc. Douglas Tinsley, 21, of Chester, S.C. died at the scene of the Humvee accident and Spc. Joseph Strong, 21, of Lebanon, Ind., died en route to the hospital in Germany.
Elizabeth Johnson said Strong was Cpl. Johnson's best friend in the military.
Cpl. Johnson, the eldest of five children, was a natural athlete who became a star center-fielder for the Prairie High School baseball team and dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues, said David Johnson, who coached his son in Little League baseball.
Though his baseball dreams were eventually replaced with new dreams of an Army career, both he and his father looked forward to the day Cpl. Johnson's son, Isaiah, was big enough to pick up a baseball bat.
"We had both dreamed of coaching his son together," David Johnson said of Isaiah, who will turn 5 this month.
Baseball wasn't the only constant in Cpl. Johnson's life. As a first-grader, he met Gale, the girl he'd eventually marry, at Sunday school. She often attended Cpl. Johnson's baseball games, even traveling with his family to out-of-state tournaments, David Johnson said. The two married soon after graduating from Prairie High School in 2001, he said.
The couple also have a 2-year-old daughter, Rya.
"He wanted to do his part for his country," his father said. Cpl. Johnson enlisted 3 ½ years ago and deployed for Iraq in October.
In addition to his parents, wife and children, he is survived by his sisters, Naphtali, 21, and Lauralee, 20; and his brothers, Zachary, 17, and Timothy, 15, all of Vancouver.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Vancouver First Church of God, 3300 N.E. 78th St., with a graveside service on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Evergreen Memorial Gardens, also in Vancouver.
A trust fund for Cpl. Johnson's wife and children has been set up at Washington Mutual.
Donations in his name can be made at any branch.
|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
For Vancouver family, it's home but without a father
A fallen military man's dream to build a house comes true thanks to community
Monday, June 16, 2008
The Oregonian Staff
VANCOUVER -- The only one missing Sunday when Army Cpl. Jeremiah Johnson's family got the keys to their brand new house was Johnson himself.
He died in early 2007 after his Army Humvee, on patrol in Iraq, plunged into a canal. His dream had been to finish his duty in Iraq, return home to Vancouver and build a home for his family.
What Johnson couldn't do, the community did for him. Hundreds of people and businesses donated money, material and labor to build the home from the ground up in about five months. As they got closer to finishing, organizers set a target date: Father's Day.
They made the target. In a small but emotional ceremony that drew close to 100 people Sunday, Johnson's wife, Gale, got the keys to the home she and Jeremiah had always wanted. The house is now theirs, free and clear.
The couple knew each other since childhood and married shortly after finishing high school. This week, Gale will move into the home with their children, Isaiah, 6, and Rya, 4.
The new home could compete with the chic, remade houses on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." It has solid wood doors, tile floors, stone countertops, a built-in sound system, an extra-large swing set in the backyard, filled with laughing kids Sunday.
A "Love Grows Here" sign was planted out front.
"They could have given us leftovers," Julie Olson, a board member of the foundation created to build the house, said of those who donated cabinets and other items. "But they gave us the best."
About all that's left to install are the refrigerator and blinds, which will arrive in the next few days.
Though Jeremiah might not have been there Sunday in person, he was there in spirit, smiling out from photographs and remembered, over and over, for how happy and proud he'd be.
When locals embraced the project, "what they're really embracing is what this young man did for us," Olson said.
Gale Johnson, 24, said that when she first envisioned what the home might look like, she didn't picture "anything as good as this." She picked out the colors and styles, all without the worry of a mortgage.
The rooms for the children are decked out with their names painted on the walls. In Rya's room, castle windows match her princess-themed bed. Isaiah's room has multicolored silhouettes of skateboarders on the walls.
"They come show me their rooms over and over again," Gale said.
She accepted the keys to the 1,700-square-foot northeast Vancouver home through tears, calling it "the biggest blessing I've ever received." Those who took part "made my family bigger than I ever thought it could be," she said.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group that includes many veterans, circled the driveway while holding American flags high.
Organizers launched the house-building project on Veterans Day last year and soon started getting telephone calls from people who wanted to donate money, materials and labor, said Steve Staudinger, a longtime friend of Jeremiah's and employee of New Traditions Homes who helped lead the effort.
The new home is on the edge of a New Traditions development, and Staudinger said many contractors and others he typically worked with offered to help. Crews from the Vancouver Fire Department framed the house in little more than a day. Donations were as small as a dollar and as large as many thousands.
Leftover money will go to a scholarship fund for the children.
Olson said the home makes her proud of her community, just as she's proud of Jeremiah. She hopes other similar efforts will be inspired by the new Johnson home, which proved that, "it can be done, and people are generous."