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Army 1st Lt. David A. Johnson
Died January 25, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
24, of Horicon, Wis.; assigned to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regimentt, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died Jan. 25 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries caused by an improvised explosive device while conducting a dismounted patrol.
College classmates, friends remember Johnson
By Jonathan Shorman
The (Springfield, Mo.) News-Leader
Last September, David Johnson called Jeff Plake, the campus pastor at Evangel University. It wasn’t like Johnson, a 2010 Evangel graduate, to call out of the blue, but he had some big news.
Johnson, a first lieutenant in the Army, had earned command of his own platoon. And he was going to Afghanistan.
“He said, ‘I’m excited and a little terrified,’ ” Plake said.
Johnson was killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 25, after deploying in December. Students and faculty gathered the next day to remember and grieve.
Johnson, from Mayville, Wis., had last visited campus on Veterans Day, attending a special chapel service.
He had the chance to look friends in the eye and say goodbye, Plake said.
“No soldier goes overseas thinking they’re going to die, but none of them is oblivious to the fact that they might,” Plake said.
Johnson was conducting a dismounted patrol in the Kandahar province when an improvised explosive device detonated, the Defense Department said in a news release. Johnson was assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
During a Jan. 26 chapel service, members of the campus ROTC Bear Batallion, of which Johnson was a member, saluted the flag and played taps.
Later, splitting up into small groups, the hundreds of students in attendance prayed for Johnson and his family.
In addition to ROTC, during his time at the university Johnson, a social science major, was an assistant director of CROSSwalk, a campus ministry program that organizes students to do service.
Alex Schauer, a 2010 graduate, worked with Johnson at CROSSwalk and remembered him as an adventurer and a joker. She’d teased him that it seemed he never slept because of all his activities.
“If he only lived 24 years, then he lived every moment,” Schauer said through tears.
Plake also remembered Johnson’s adventurous spirit, tubing and water skiing at a lake during a faculty and student retreat.
“He was athletic and fun and ‘drive the boat faster’ and ‘let’s flip this tube over,’ “ Plake said.
Johnson’s death came during the campus’ Spiritual Emphasis Week. As Plake spoke to students during the chapel service, he grappled with how the university community should respond. Plake said that tragedy strikes, Christians are called to worship.
The students sang “How Great is Our God” as some sniffled, holding back tears. After the chapel service, about a dozen students remained. Forming a circle around the American flag on stage, the students continued to pray.
The school plans to eventually hold a more formal memorial service. Plake asked students to send in photos and written memories of Johnson.
Plake also promised that the school would care for Johnson’s brother, Michael, who currently attends Evangel.
Johnson’s father, Andrew, is publisher of The Dodge County Pionier in Wisconsin. On the paper’s website, the family posted a statement.
“We are very proud of our son. He is a hero. He first was a man of God. He has been a strong leader at Mayville High School, at Evangel University and to the men in his unit,” the statement reads in part.
Plake said the Johnson family was traveling to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to escort his remains home.
“Your heart goes out with them,” Justin Mattiuzzo, a junior, said. “We lost someone everybody loved and cared deeply about.”