Vet’s service story resonates with students

Captain Johnson, U.S. Army Reserves, was the speaker at Elk Lake High School's Veterans Day program on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY PAT FARNELLI
Captain Johnson, U.S. Army Reserves, was the speaker at Elk Lake High School's Veterans Day program on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY PAT FARNELLI

Captain Johnson, U.S. Army Reserves, was the speaker at Elk Lake High School’s Veterans Day program on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY PAT FARNELLI

Elk Lake High School students were visibly moved by the service story of Captain Jeremiah Johnson, who first told them that 18 years ago he sat in one of these very seats attending a Veterans Day Ceremony at Elk Lake.
Johnson, who later became the Commander of his company in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, told how he learned about what a sacrifice it really was to be a service member, before he ever arrived in Iraq.
“For the most part, my service was uneventful until Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks took place on our soil. I remember the way I felt that day and the change that happened across our country and in my heart,” he said.
“I didn’t deploy right away, since I was chosen to attend Officers Candidate School. I was sent off for more training on how to lead troops until 2005. My unit had deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, while I was away for officers’ training. I returned home just after they left, so I worked at our home station waiting for a call to join them,” he said. “It was only one month after they had arrived in Iraq that they began to take casualties, and within a week we lost six of our soldiers to insurgent attacks. All of these men were my fellow soldiers whom I had trained with, and one of them was my cousin. I was given the duty of Casualty Notification Officer for my cousin. This duty required me to go and inform my cousin’s wife and his mother that he had been killed earlier that day. This mission was the hardest one that I have ever had the terrible honor to complete. I was so afraid, but as a soldier and an officer it was my responsibility. Nothing can prepare you for that. I will never forget the look on my aunt’s face as she realized why I was standing at her front door in my dress uniform, and I can never forget the pain in her screams as it sunk in that she had lost her son forever.”
Johnson continued, “Following the funerals of our fallen six brothers in arms, I received my orders for deployment. I was eager to join the rest of my unit in Ramadi, Iraq. I did however have to leave my two sons, Brennen and Justice, while I was gone. I would miss every holiday and their birthdays. To my dismay, I was not assigned to my unit, but given a special mission to build an effective police force for the city. We held recruiting events where we were attacked by mortars, rockets and snipers. We had suicide bombers attack our police stations by driving vehicles loaded with explosives into them.”
Johnson returned to the U.S. near the end of 2006, and was lucky enough to witness birth of his youngest son, Mason.
Master of Ceremonies for the assembly Holden Cole said, “We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to t he more than 650,000 American service members who died in battle or the 1.4 million who were wounded (and have since passed away). We can however, recognize and thank the 25 million veterans still living today,” Cole, a senior at Elk Lake
who will be serving in the United States Army in Colorado after graduation.
Students from the drama club sang seven patriotic songs during the assembly, and were joined by the chorus and band for the National Anthem.

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