News: Chemical soldiers grieve loss of one of their own
Story by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Mourners packed the Edgewood Chapel on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Jan. 17 to say goodbye to a fallen brother-in-arms, a CBRN warrior, a leader, a friend.
First Lt. Daniel C. Johnson, executive officer for the 46th Chemical Company, 22nd Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), died Jan. 13 while convalescing from a surgery.
He had served 10 years as an enlisted Soldier, mostly in the Chemical Corps, where he advanced to the rank of staff sergeant promotable, and had been at the unit for more than two years. He was well liked and some of the attendees, like Master Sgt. Rick Bowie, knew him more than 12 years earlier when Johnson was a junior enlisted soldier.
“I knew when he was a private first class that his career would be filled with greatness, and I am proud to say that I was right,” the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) logistician said during the memorial. “I remember when he got to APG, I went to where he was working, and he came into the parking lot to see me. As he approached, I rendered him a salute, he returned it, and we both laughed. He told me that it felt odd being saluted by me, and I told him I agreed, but it was well deserved. Then he said from now on, we would have to meet inside, and we both laughed again,” said Bowie, who called Johnson a natural leader.
Maj. Matthew Mason, his company commander, said Johnson was eager to begin his duty as the unit’s executive officer after proving himself in other positions and gaining the reputation as a fair, caring and trustworthy leader.
“I just redeployed from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan and Daniel was at the welcome home ceremony where he made his way to me, shook my hand, told me he was going to be my [executive officer] and wanted to know what he could do for me. Looking back, I don’t even think I was done hugging my wife yet,” Mason recalled of his right-hand man.
Described by others as a mentor and motivator, Johnson was said to have a strong, yet friendly demeanor and always wore a smile. The speakers referenced the strong family values he displayed when talking about his wife, two young sons and mother, all of whom were present at the memorial, among other relatives and family friends seated up front.
“Eight months ago on our trip to Jordan, our team sat together, eating ice cream, watching the sunset over the Red Sea, said fellow soldier Sgt. 1st Class Tantra Peyton. “The conversation moved from our dislikes, to philosophy of the soul, to death. We expressed where we’d like to be buried and what our memorial should be like. And he said celebrate my life and throw in a mix tape too. I’m honored to have known such an awesome person—a true family man.”
The final presenter with a memorial tribute, Staff Sgt. Tricia Kennedy, 22nd Chemical Battalion (TE), read a portion of a poem she wrote during what she described as one of her darkest hours. She said she hoped it would bring comfort and peace to the Johnson Family and others present.
“Be strong they say, don’t let your problems overwhelm or cause a dismay, but being strong I can’t today,” she began as her voice quivered. She recited three verses with a voice that became solid and more resilient with each word. Then she looked at Johnson’s mother, Joann Jackson Johnson; wife, Carmelita; and two young sons, Christopher and Phillip, and read the last two lines of her poem. “No matter the pain, no matter the heartache, loneliness that you’ll face, remember my words dear child and just be strong.”
A visitation was held the next day at APG’s main chapel, followed by funeral services the following day. The interment takes place at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. at a later date.