Rain was not able to deter friends, family and members of military support groups at the Clark County War Memorial at Fort Vancouver Jan. 6. They were gathered to honor the memory of Army Cpl. Jeremiah Johnson who died 12 years before to the day, succumbing to injuries suffered from a Humvee rollover in Iraq in December 2006.
Johnson, a 2001 Prairie High School graduate, was remembered by his mother, father, wife, children and baseball coach. The event was put on by several local groups including the Community Military Appreciation Committee, Vancouver-based Race to Remember and the Patriot Guard Riders as part of a campaign to honor each servicemember in Clark County who died during their service in the military.
Jeremiah’s wife, Gale, spoke about the time she got the call that he had been in an accident, receiving it while driving through perpetually-dark winter Alaska where their family was at the time.
“When someone from the Army calls and your husband is overseas and they ask ‘do you have a second,’ you have a second,” Gale recounted. The moments after receiving the news were a blur, she said. His death had lasting impacts on her.
“I turned my back on God for a long time. Publicly you might not know it,” Gale remembered. She said that she fell into addiction following Jeremiah’s passing, though by returning to her faith she was able to break that cycle more than four years ago.
Through the strength and support of her family, Gale said she was able to finally live the life she felt Jeremiah would want her to live. When talking about her husband, she recounted the times in high school she and Jeremiah would spend falling asleep looking at the stars, saying it was just like something out a country song.
“He was romantic. He was fun and adventurous. He loved his kids, and he loved me,” she said, adding that she now sees a lot of Jeremiah in her son, Isaiah, and daughter, Rya.
Jeremiah’s family was appreciative of the support in having their beloved son and husband honored.
“I’m just so very grateful and thankful that everyone would come out in the rain 12 years later to acknowledge a man that changed our lives forever,” Gale said.
Jeremiah’s father, David, brought to light a recent discovery he made going through his son’s medical records. Until that point, it wasn’t clear what led to the Humvee rolling into a canal, but through the records he found documentation it was due to Jeremiah, the driver, swerving to miss a suspected improvised explosive device on the road.
“It was a bit of comfort to learn that, that he was trying to avoid that IED,” David remarked.
Jeremiah’s mother, Elizabeth, appreciated the work of the different military support groups to put on such a ceremony. She, too, spoke of faith as working to keep hope that her son would not be gone forever.
“He’s with God in heaven; we’re going to see him again someday,” Elizabeth remarked. “He’s going to really have to brace himself when I get there.”