Remembrance, Support, Veterans, WWII


My generation grew up on WWII stories. Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in the war, became a movie star by reprising his exploits on the big screen. Our neighbor, Bob Chapman, told how he hid from Nazis in a barn somewhere in Europe. We were fascinated by a helmet, Luger and other memorabilia he brought back from combat.
His son, Bill, my brother, Will, and cousin, Ted, played at war games in which they shot the imaginary enemy and sometimes fell down wounded. But they always rose to fight another day. Looking back I suppose I was the wartime correspondent, filing stories and shooting film of their battles because one of those scenes still plays in my brain as I write this.

Bill & Will

Will and his friends came of age during the days of the draft, just in time for Vietnam. Many of  them spent time in the military. As most of you know, Will didn’t survive his second tour of duty as an Army helicopter pilot.

The reality of war is far removed from little boys’ games. Yet, we need brave men and women to play those roles in the real world. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve lost loved ones to war and to those who have come home wounded in body and spirit.

I don’t know what it’s like to be in combat, but I’ve known a number of the men and women who have either experienced it first hand or have trained vigorously for the eventuality. I have the greatest respect for them all.

We owe these people more than most of us civilians will ever understand. They and their families have made great sacrifices while we have gone happily about our lives.

So today, I want to say thank you to the all the courageous men and women who have put yourselves on the line to ensure that the United States of America remains free and strong.

God bless you and God bless America. 

Here are just a few veterans I’ve been privileged to know.



My neighbor Cissy flew Blackhawk Helicopters

Pat & Paige are still serving our country.


I’m proud to have known each and every one of you.
I salute you!
 For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. Sam. 22:30
Family History, Greatest Generation, Memoir, Veterans, WWII


Colonel Leslie H. Johnson  
November 3, 1916 – December 28, 2002

If my father-in-law were alive today, he would be 97 years old. Although he’s no longer with us in body, he lives on in our hearts. Colonel Leslie Harold Johnson was a man’s man, who understood integrity and courageous living.
Puppy-Dog Eyes at three

Dad grew up during the depression. As the oldest of four children, he often worked alongside his father at manual labor to help support the family. Through the years, he regaled us with stories of standing chest-deep in a river to move logs to shore, and how at one point, they put newspapers over the walls of their house to keep the wind out.

He and granddad also worked with the CCCs. During that time, Dad was given the nickname Pistol by someone who thought he was from Pistol City. An online article by Teri Maddox of News-Democrat sheds light on the moniker. 

The coal-mining town of Coulterville must have been a rough-and-tumble place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. People called it “Pistol City.”   “I had an uncle who used to talk about who got killed on this street and who got killed on that street,” said Sam White, 70, of rural Coulterville. “He said everybody carried a gun when they came into town at night.” 

Terry’s dad was not a violent gun-toting guy, but he knew how to stand up for himself and for others. At his funeral, a younger friend remarked that even at 86, he had been the most macho man in the congregation. We figured he had heard  lots of Dad’s stories about flying bombers over Europe during WWII, racing cars and in later years, confronting a would-be robber at his travel trailer door by getting the drop on him. 

Because there was no money for college, the Army Air Corps must have looked good to Dad. He was a career airman and made the most of every opportunity that came his way. He retired with the rank of Colonel from the United States Air Force. With all his accomplishments, he never forgot his humble beginnings nor the fact he didn’t have a college education. Both of his boys had that opportunity. 

Dad & Mo around the time they married

Les Johnson could be tough, but he was also tender and affectionate. He adored his wife, Eloise. She had been his secretary, and with a twinkle in his eye, he’d allude to stealing kisses behind the file cabinet. I often think about Dad riding shotgun in our car and how always at some point in the trip, he’d reach back to pat Mo’s knee. 

                              Even when they were octogenarians, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.                                      
Dad and Mo enjoyed people and socializing. After they retired, they were part of a group that dined out, round danced and traveled across the country in their travel trailers. He was quick to tell a joke and usually engaged others in conversation wherever he found himself.
The Johnson family in the early years — He was proud of his boys, Jerry and Terry.
I feel blessed to have been Dad’s daughter-in-law. I guess you could say we had a mutual admiration society, which speaks volumes, considering I came into the family as a package deal – a divorced mother of two. He and Mo took Gary, Maria and me into their hearts completely, as did the rest of the family. I’m proud to be part of the Johnson clan and its rich heritage.
We miss you, Dad, but your high standards of integrity, courage and love still guide us.
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment],
but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 Amplified Bible