SGT, 5th Special Forces Group (MACV-SOG)
04/27/2011, Seattle, Washington
Bruce L. Johnston was born in St. Paul , Minn. on 31 October, 1946. He moved to Seattle , WA with his parents in 1947 and other than his time in the military has lived there his whole life. Bruce joined the US Army in 1966 and received communications, parachute and Special Forces Medic (91-B 4S) training. Arriving in Vietnam in November of 1967 he was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (MACV-SOG) and sent to Forward Operations Base FOB#1 PhuBai in I CORPS where he served for one year.
Sergeant Bruce L. Johnston spent the year taking care of ethnic allies and the Americans who comprised the recon teams. He worked as a chase medic and participated in dozens of cross border missions into Laos . He was shot down once and on several other occasions rescued others who’d also crashed behind enemy lines or were members of shot up teams.
He returned from Vietnam in November of 1968 and was honorably discharged from the US Army at Ft. Lewis , Washington . He was awarded a Combat Medic Badge (CMB) and was a member of the Special Operations Association and the Special Forces Association. He always maintained that the most remarkable experience of his life was his time as a Special Forces Medic and he cherished the friends he made there.
A letter from his friend:
Hey Chief – Just wanted to give you an update. First, your service out at the National Cemetery in Covington was amazing, as you already know. The weather gave us a glorious day to honor you. So many friends were there. Poor Katy. When you received your 21 Gun Salute, I thought she was going to jump entirely out of her chair. I was sitting right behind her, Carolyn and Carol. Each volley rattled her right down to her toes. I thought she was going to hop right out of her chair. Katy, I hope you don’t mind me saying this without your permission, but it electrified the moment even more! You guided us (me) through one of the most terrible days/nights of my life in a very caring, gentle way. I will never forget!!! Robert and Doan (Cowboy) gave a very touching eulogy. What great friends. I didn’t make any attempt to count, but if I had to guess, I would bet there were at least 50 to 70 cars there so you do the math :o).
After the service, your brothers of the SFA invited us down to the Team House for a gathering. What an amazing place. I don’t want to make a mistake here with his name, but I believe it was right behind “Captain Ron’s” house alongside an air strip. There should be a segment on the TV program “Evening” or one those local channels when all of those soldiers, old and young gather there for one of their by-monthly meetings! It was a memorable day. And, many of your classmates from Lincoln, Hamilton and BF Goodrich (oops I mean BF Day :o) ) were there. I didn’t make too much of a fool out of myself, there were only a few tears! That will come later!
Saturday, Phil and Katy invited us (me) into their home for a delicious chicken dinner. They are very gracious hosts. It only took me a few minutes to feel like I was part of the family. I had a chance to talk with Cowboy, alone, out on the front porch before he had to leave to catch his flight home. He is a very humble and devoted friend to you! While we were out there, we were visited by a small bird with a red breast and head. I told Cowboy that was a sign from you and it seemed to calm his spirit just a little. Turns out, Phil and Katy are hosts to this bird and its family. They have a nest about 3 or 4 feet behind where Cowboy and I were standing, on their porch light! Then, we all gathered in the family room and watched two dvds. One was your interview at your SF reunion and the other was of that History Channel Vietnam special that Cowboy starred in. It was good to hear your laugh again, my friend.
Sunday (Father’s Day), we met at Cloud City Coffee. Our tour guide (Maynard) provided ground transportation with 7 seat van. Maynard, Carol, Carolyn, Robert and myself (that was our seating arrangement) climbed in for a ride out to Money Creek campground (GPS Coordinates: Lat. 47.79563N, Long. 121.51414W) on Highway 2, just beyond Index. There we toasted Bruce and individually, and in our own private space, scattered some of Bruce’s ashes. Robert also provided us with a small amount of ashes to spread somewhere each of us found special. Maynard had the honor of wearing some of Bruce home with him since he was standing downwind. The ‘skeeters were already out. They were biting Maynard and one flew directly into my eye. Today (Monday) it feels like it is still there! Then we climbed back into the van for a brief but interesting tour by our gracious tour guide and he also bought us a Father’s Day buffet lunch. Thank you Maynard!!! Once, back at the Cloud, we grabbed our own vehicles and met once more down at Bruce’s house. After a final farewell to all, we began to depart. First, Maynard and then myself, leaving Carolyn, Robert and Charles. They would be flying out early today (Monday). My heartfelt thanks to them for being here. Bruce continues to doing me favors by providing me with new and wonderful friends! And, for bringing past friends and classmates I haven’t seen in decades back into my life. I’m a lucky man!!
Oh, by the way, Carolyn, Robert and Charles (Robert, I don’t have an email address for Charles, so please forward to him, thanks). I want to apologize for our final minutes at Bruce’s. Yes Bruce, I finally made a fool out of myself as I was saying goodbye (as I mentioned early). As Maynard was leaving and as I was saying goodbye to him and those wonderful folks, my tears became torrential. I couldn’t even say goodbye properly. I was ashamed of myself. I’m not a wus, just sentimental! I have finally come to the conclusion that real men can still cry!!
And, one last news flash (for now). Remember I said Robert gave us each another small amount of Bruce’s ashes to scatter someplace special to us?? Well, let’s just say, Bruce now and will forever, have a presence at Golden Gardens park!! For those of you who have read that piece I wrote about Bruce, you will know the significance! After I left Bruce’s feeling like a total fool, with tears cascading down my face (thank God for sunglasses), and heading for home, I suddenly turned west and headed over 85th to Golden Gardens. For those of you who live here and might use the park, it was “only a pinch” here and there. That’s all I’m going to say except, I hope Astrid doesn’t get any sand down her teeney, weenie, white bikini if she ever sunbathes here again!
To all my friends, new and old, this has been quite a journey. The destination is yet to be determined! I am honored to have a friend like Bruce. I’m pleased that he wasn’t captured by the enemy that invaded his body. I know he would not have wanted to remain a prisoner of his captors. AND, I can’t say RIP to my old friend. He just got his new freedom wings. Why in the hell would he want to rest?? You go Bruce! Thanks Katie and Carolyn for those kind words. Only you two will understand.
Llon R. Johnson