- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Inherent Resolve
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
- Operation Spartan Shield
- U.S. Africa Command Operations
- U.S. Central Command operations
- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Capt. Christopher B. Johnson
Died October 16, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
29, of Excelsior Springs, Mo.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation, 25th Infantry Division (Light), Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii; killed Oct. 16 when his OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter apparently collided with another OH-58D helicopter and crashed in Baghdad. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer William I. Brennan.
Iraq rescue mission claims life of local hero
By Jim Boulden
The Excelsior Springs (Mo.) Standard
Army Captain Christopher Johnson lost his life last Saturday evening while spearheading a scout helicopter rescue mission of a community of Christian Iraqi citizens fleeing from an attack by terrorists in southwestern Baghdad. And according to his parents, Ronald and Margaret Johnson of Excelsior Springs, he died for a cause he deeply believed in and began preparing for while in his early childhood years.
“From the age of about six or seven, Christopher knew he wanted to be an Army pilot and serve in the United States military,” said Ronald Johnson, himself a retired Army major.
“He spent his entire life focused on his personal and professional goal of protecting and defending his fellow man through his service in the armed forces,” Ronald said of his son’s commitment to his mission.
“He was fully aware of the risks involved in our current war effort and he proudly committed his heart and soul to the effort he passionately believed in,” added his mother, Margaret.
Christopher graduated from North Kansas City High School in 1994 and, with the assistance of high school counselor Joe Brown, enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point later that same year. He graduated from the prestigious military institution as a second lieutenant in 1998.
From West Point, Christopher earned his wings in flight school at Fort Tucker, Ala., and later served with the 7th Cavalry in Korea. From there he moved on to a tour in Kuwait, followed by an assignment with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, where he was deployed to Iraq as a company commander in January of this year.
In the beginning of this year, it was clear Captain Johnson’s desire was to be on the primary front of the war effort’s activities to free the Iraqi people from the oppression of terrorists. When his infantry division was tasked to support efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Johnson was one of the much smaller Kiowa Scout helicopter group that volunteered for the mission in Iraq.
“Christopher fulfilled his lifetime goal by becoming one of our nation’s dedicated soldiers,” said Margaret. “His only minor disappointment in terms of the war effort has been the large amount of negative publicity generated by the mainstream media’s war coverage. If American citizens could listen to the Iraqi citizens cheering when U.S. Army helicopters arrive to provide them with aid and comfort, they would appreciate and better understand why we are involved in this war-and better understand the price we must all pay for freedom,” she added.
Johnson’s battalion commander made it known to his family that Christopher was personally responsible for saving many lives.
The accident that claimed the lives of Johnson and his co-pilot occurred late in the evening in total darkness when their helicopter collided with another while on a mission to aid a large group of Christian Iraqi citizens who were being fired upon by insurgents. One copter made a hard landing and the other craft, piloted by Johnson, was destroyed.
“My son died for his country and for the cause of freedom — which was his mission in life,” Margaret said. “The Christian beliefs he has held all off of his life have surely placed him at the right hand of his Father in heaven.”
Captain Christopher Johnson, who was 29 years old, will be buried at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at his request, alongside his fellow soldiers.
Jim Bouldin is publisher of The Excelsior Springs Standard, a semiweekly newspaper in Excelsior Springs, Mo.
Reprinted with permission. Â© The Excelsior Springs Standard.
* * * * *
Through faith, we never say goodbye forever
The cause of freedom lost one of its most dedicated and passionate fighters last Saturday evening in a war-torn desert region of southwestern Baghdad.
The story on Page One of The Standard provides our readers with the facts and some commentary relating to the death of United States Army Captain Christopher Johnson, but an even greater message can be found if you read between the lines and discover the inspirational testimony of faith expressed by Christopher and his loved ones.
While I consider myself a man of faith, mine has never been put to the ultimate test — that being the agonizing search for the answer to why a loved one was taken from this world to the one that is everlasting, but out of our reach.
When visiting with Ronald and Margaret Johnson and a small group of their close friends and relatives yesterday afternoon. I felt the presence of God’s healing and comforting spirit in their living room. And when I looked in the eyes of Christopher’s parents, I saw what can only be described as an enlightened sorrow; a look that expressed a combination of sadness for the loss of their first-born son with a heartfelt knowledge that his soul has now found its ultimate resting place in the presence of God.
This realization, this witnessing of the power of faith, left me feeling somewhat inadequate in a way that’s difficult to describe here and now. Perhaps I wonder if my personal faith structure would stand firm in the face of such a tragic loss. Another selfish part of me hopes I need not know anytime soon.
The message I hope to share with you in my space today is one I’m sure Christopher would be more than happy to enthusiastically express to you in person if he were here — although I do seem to feel his spirit hovering over my keyboard as I attempt to share his thoughts.
Army Captain Christopher Johnson was a born leader and, in his final days, a battalion commander. He believed that leaders could not and should not ever turn their backs on those who are denied basic human rights and suffer under the evil hand of terrorism and inhumane rule. A true leader cannot savor the fruits of freedom while knowing others have never even tasted it.
Fighting this injustice and making this world a better place is what Christopher and his fellow soldiers lived for: they were driven by a dream that one day this world might be free from fear and injustice.
And according to his parents, Christopher held a passionate and unwavering love in his heart for his fellow man and the peace he felt they so righteously deserve as God’s children inhabiting our planet.
And from a very early age Christopher Johnson decided to make generosity and freedom-fighting his main goal in life. In his high school years he chose volunteer work over summer jobs; he joined the Boy Scout at age 15 and became an Eagle Scout by age 18, and continued his scouting leadership for four years while attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
From there he achieved his lifelong dream, to defend our nation as a pilot in the United States Army. He proudly lived and died for a cause he deeply believed in: peace and freedom for all.
Regardless of our politics, we should all be proud and inspired by Christopher Johnson.
Keep the faith.
— Jim Bouldin
Jim Bouldin is publisher of The Excelsior Springs Standard, a semiweekly newspaper in Excelsior Springs, Mo. This is his column, “Paper Clips,” from the Oct. 19 issue.
Reprinted with permission. Â© The Excelsior Springs Standard.
* * * * *