Local News

For family of fallen soldier, this is 'not goodbye'

Posted October 3, 2012
Updated October 4, 2012

— The Johnson family of Raeford has a long, proud tradition of military service that dates back to the Revolutionary War.

Over the years, they’ve learned to share the difficulty of deployments and the joy of a safe return.

But not this time.

Donna Johnson, 29, a staff sergeant in the North Carolina Army National Guard, was among three North Carolina soldiers who were killed Monday in Afghanistan when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest. She is the first in her family to die during combat.

Rene Johnson recounted the moment the family was informed of her sister’s death.

“There’s two military people waiting here to speak to you and your father,” she said. “That’s when I automatically knew something was wrong.”

Rene Johnson said she and her baby sister were very close, and they last spoke on Sept.18.

“She called me from Afghanistan to wish me a happy birthday,” she said. “I didn’t get a chance to tell her that [I love her] because I’m thinking she’s coming back.”

Rene Johnson said her sister loved cars, motorcycles, Carolina Basketball and her partner of several years, who also serves in the military.

They had been together for years, before the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed. Johnson’s family says she shouldn’t be judged by her sexual orientation.

“She is a soldier,” Rene Johnson said. “She went over there to fight, not because she was gay or lesbian.”

Johnson died alongside her comrades, Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison of Browns Summit and Sgt. Thomas J. Butler IV of Leland. They were assigned to the 514th Military Police Company, which is based in Winterville.

Johnson joined the guard in August 2006 and previously served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. Her awards and decorations included the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal and Army Commendation Medal.

Hardison, who joined the Guard in 2006 and was also an Iraq veteran, earned the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal with a campaign star and the Army Commendation Medal.

Butler began his military service in 2007, and his deployment to Afghanistan was his first. He earned the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

“We are still grieving for these soldiers, their families and their unit members still carrying on with their mission,” Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, adjutant general of North National Guard, said in a statement. “They were the embodiment of citizen soldiers who put everything on hold to go in harm’s way for all of us. They will be remembered and sorely missed.”

A total of 14 people were killed in the attack by a Taliban suicide bomber, who rammed a motorcycle packed with explosives into a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol. The Associated Press reported Monday that the bomber struck shortly after the troops got out of their vehicles to walk through a market area in Khost, in the eastern part of the country.

The bodies of all three soldiers were flown Tuesday to the military’s mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, where family members awaited their arrival.

“I never say goodbye,” Rene Johnson said. “I always say, I’ll see you later.”


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • shannamcintyre Oct 12, 2012

    I know this family and have been appalled by what people have said about her and the family....as the old saying goes, if you don't have anything to say, don't say it at all. Have some respect, Prayers go out to the Johnson family, we are truely sorry for your loss.

  • Huey Oct 3, 2012

    I too send sincre condolences to the family. For all practical purposes, she stood on the wall for us; and she died for America. Thank you Sergeant Johnson. And thanks to all of America's finest who have paid so very much.

  • TellMeWhy Oct 3, 2012

    My condolences to the family and the soul mate of Sgt. Johnson. You all will be in my prayers. Thank you Sgt. Johnson for your service.

  • donnaferguson21 Oct 3, 2012

    My most sincre condolences to the family. We lost our son in law last August in Afghanistan. These are true heroes.

  • esteryates69 Oct 3, 2012

    As one all ready said there no words to say i very sorry i am.I pray ever night for our soldiers.May God comfort this family,in the night and days to come.

  • Coretta Scott Thing Oct 3, 2012

    Do not politicize her death for your own petty purposes. All of you who do this on a public forum that the family can read should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. Show some respect!!!

    Since this soldiers' family respected and supporter her as a lesbian soldier with a partner, I think that they will RELISH the fact that people here on this forum stand up for her. Those of you who deny her sexuality, her partner, or her huge sacrifice as a gay American are the ones who need to show respect.

  • muggs Oct 3, 2012

    Sorry for your loss, we all die alittle bit when one of our own is taken.

  • Whatev333 Oct 3, 2012

    Please, show some respect for the fallen soldier and her family!!! This woman, AN AMERICAN SOLDIER, made the greatest sacrifice any person can make for their country. There are no words to express my sympathy for her family, friends and loved ones!!! Do not politicize her death for your own petty purposes. All of you who do this on a public forum that the family can read should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. Show some respect!!!

  • Coretta Scott Thing Oct 3, 2012

    I support our gay troops, I support gay marriage. I do not think the bible is in anyway a tool that should be used to govern our population, and I am just as American as any of you. As President John Adams stated in 1797 "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". have a problem with history?

  • Huey Oct 3, 2012

    Presidents come and go, each party has a time running things, and yet our military and others keep dying in those barren desert lands. Our military is the best, no doubt, but those giving them their orders are using them I am afraid. For just what, I don't know. But it makes no sense at all to me. Ask yourself - do you know why they still are dying over there now?