MARIETTA, GA, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, G CO, 2D BN, 8TH MAR, (RCT-5, I MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC SAQLAWIYAH, IRAQ 10/08/2006
On October 6th, 2006, Corporal Brad Payne, Lance Corporal John Hale and Lance Corporal Stephen F. Johnson, all USMC, were in the Humvee together and all three died together that day.
Following is a letter that Stephen left to his family:
“Family, What’s up? You’re reading this cause I’m not coming back from Iraq. I signed into the Marines because I felt I had a job to do, more or less a duty that I felt I needed to do for our country. After September 11th, I felt I needed to go to war to protect our country but more importantly, for my family and friends. It’s a dangerous thing to go into war and fight for something that is 8,000 miles away.
But I felt it was something I needed to do. I choose not to further my education by going to college or getting a good-paying job, but I felt that it was more important to risk my life in defending the country that I love so much. You must always remember the boys that have died for our country. Old men start the wars but teenagers fight them. Always remember that. The average Marine is 19 years old, right out of high school. Never forget us and the sacrifices that we have made to sustain our great amount of liberty. We have been away from home for a great amount of time, not seeing our family and friends, and giving up our own liberties.
We, as Marines, know what we have to do for our country and to keep it safe. We know the cost of war and that Marines will die in combat. We are trained very well but are not invincible. All I ask is that you NOT forget me and my fellow Marines. When you think every now and then about your freedom, know that Marines and other military branches are there to protect that from anyone else trying to take it away.
This is the greatest country on the planet Earth and I’ll be damned before I let any terrorist take it [America] away from my family or friends. I did not think about myself when I signed into the Marines. I was thinking about my friends and family and their freedoms. If it takes my life to protect them then that’s what I have to do. People make sacrifices all the time, but it is the ones that make that ultimate sacrifice for their country that are the most honorable. It is the selflessness that makes a US Marine great. Do not forget your fallen Marines.
I love all you so much. You all know why I did this and why I made the choice. I wanted to keep my country free from terrorists and to help keep ya’ll safe. If it took my life to protect anyone’s life in the family then I would do it. If anyone’s life was to be taken I would have stepped in and substituted mine for theirs. It is an ultimate sacrifice that I was willing to make and I made it.I was destined to do this and do not regret any part of it.
All I wanted was for ya’ll to be safe….. and to live a carefree life without any worries of terrorists in the community. I may have not showed it all the time, but I love all you so much. I’m going to miss all you so much but will see all of you again in time.
I am looking down from Heaven… so be good! Hahaha.
By the way … Mom … remember when I was on pre-deployment leave at Mur’s…. that’s why I was always on the computer… I was writing this. But, I don’t want any of ya’ll to grieve over me but be happy because your son gave his life for his country that he loved so very much.
Mom, Dad, Philip, Eliza, Olivia, Mark, David, little Benjamin, and little Joanna…. I love all you so much!!!!! All of you meant the world to me. All I ask is to tell our story of us in battle fighting for our country… and that we did not die for nothing.