VANCOUVER, WA, USA U.S. Army CPL, COMPANY D, 3D BATTALION, 509TH INFANTRY, 4 BCT, FORT RICHARDSON, AK LANDSTUHL 01/05/2007
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, Corporal Jeremiah Johnson, had been critically injured in a rollover accident while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.
Elizabeth Johnson, her husband, David, and Corporal 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 Corporal 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 Corporal 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.
Corporal 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 Corporal 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 Corporal Johnson’s life. As a first-grader, he met Gale, the girl he’d eventually marry, at Sunday school. She often attended Jeremiah’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 has a 2-year-old daughter, Rya.
“He wanted to do his part for his country,” his father said. Corporal Johnson enlisted 3-1/2 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.