Submitted by Dean Johnson
My Brother has transferred to Post Everlasting.
Larry William Johnson passed away at his home at Indian Springs Nevada on January 29. He went away quietly in his sleep while taking a nap. He was 71 years old.
He did not have an easy life. He served as a forward air controller/artillery observer with the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines during 1969 In Vietnam. He would not have had to go.
When he was 15 years old his right kneecap was shattered in a toboggan accident when he was in the Boy Scouts of America. He could have escaped the hell that Vietnam became for our country, but did not.
He was a pretty sharp dude. He could read a map with the best of them and he also knew how to talk on the radio. He had to. Larry got a hell of bunch of wounded Marines out that of God-awful place that he was in.
In 1969 It was clear that we were not going to stay there anymore. I was only 13 years old when he departed from us. I could have written ‘when he went away’ but I cannot. The reason why is because that was really the day he left us. He became a different person from the Larry that we new.
Larry suffered terribly from Post Trumatic Stress Disorder, or what they now call PTSD. After he came back I was just a 15 year old dummy. (I could have told you what I really was, but there are still little kids out there that still read and write, so I need to pay attentions to propriorty).
I asked my brother what combat was like. He gave me a very strange look, it was kind of a half smile and a half snarl. He said to me, and I quote this because I can picture his face just like I am writing this right now. “I was on Fire Base Nevelle on the night it was overrun by the NVA (The North Vietnamese Army). There were 220 of us on that hill that night and when the sun came up the next morning, only 90 of us were still alive.”
Larry told me that he was out of ammo. The only thing he had left was an empty .45 cal. pistol. He told me “A (North Vietnamese soldier) walked right over the top me, He looked straight down in my foxhole, he either didn’t see me or he thought I was dead. I said “What did you do?”
He crawled out his hole, grabbed a tent stake, ran ten yards and killed that guy by running that tent stake in his back. He took that guy’s AK–47 and ammo and held on until the our blessed star came up.
The NVA who were famous for dragging their dead away left 700 hanging on the wire and inside the perimeter. That experience ruined my brother and it hurt me deeply as well.
I loved Larry more than you will ever know. I never got to be an uncle to his children because he did not have any. He disappeared for nine years in the middle 1970s and early 1980s.
I used to go visit with my Grandma Johnson and we would drink coffee and eat popcorn that she would make in a cast iron pan on her stove, but I didn’t like ginger cookies.
I went to see her at least once or twice a week and she would always ask me, “Have you heard anything from Larry?” Sadly, for both of us, I would always reply, “No Grandma, I haven’t” She died two years before we finally knew he was still alive.
We never got a phone call, a Christmas card or anything. When he finally resurfaced again, I asked my brother, who I worried about so much, “Why?” He simply gave that thousand yard stare and told me “Why did I survive when so many of my friends did not?”
I can understand that after so many years. I have been Commander of the Guard for 189 military funerals. I still have one more to go and that is for my brother. That will be a very hard day, but it will be a Glorious Day. Larry does not suffer from PTSD any longer.
We used to talk on the phone most every day. Always on Sunday night. Now on Sunday night, I look at my phone in my little library surrounded by a thousand books and my astronomy equipment and keep looking at my phone wishing that it will ring. It dosen’t.
But I know that I will see him again, I will be able to talk to my brother again and give him a hug. That will be on the day that I transfer to Post Everlasting.
At Post 249, we will have our yearly meeting on Memorial Day. The cemetary flags will be in place and we will troop the colors and decorate the flags in the Viking Memorial Park, but there will not be a speaker this year because of the COVID-19 virus.
May God Bless America and All the Ships at Sea.