It took half a century, a junk yard dog, a congressman, an inspired Afghan vet, a retired general, and supporters who come to this site to send this message: Herman Johnson’s life matters.
Dearest Friends and Literati,
Here is an over-due accounting of the events of the last few weeks, in which many of you had a vested interest:
Because of your help and generosity, our mission to reunite Herman Johnson and Fred Rivera at the Vietnam War Memorial on July 10 was an overwhelming success. Our team in DC recognizes that most of you had highly personal reasons for donating, and please accept this collective thank you: We don’t have personal email addresses for all of you and would have preferred to call you or write to you personally. You were a part of something bigger than ourselves: You converted a war story with a tragic ending into a love story, that is never ending. Fred and Herman show us that love endures.
Until the final days, it was uncertain if Herman would receive the Purple Heart he paid for in blood a half a century ago, but a very determined Fred Rivera, our “Junk Yard Dog” would not let it go, and solicited the help of Sandy Levin, the congressman from Herman’s district, and retired Lt General Guy Swan, US Army to make it happen.
Up until the moment of presentation, Herman Johnson believed all he was getting was a lapel pin, honoring his service.
A crowd of about fifty people gathered, as General Swan called forth Sgt John Marek–the man who pondered the possibility that Herman had survived his wounds, and did the extensive leg work to find him and put him in touch with Fred–to read the orders, as Fred and Herman stood shoulder to shoulder, military tall and straight.
“By order of the President of the United States, Private First Class Herman Johnson is here-by awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in Combat in Vietnam, 1969.”
Herman was dumb-founded, as General Swan pinned the medal upon him. Rather than the formal handshake, the general took Herman in his arms, saying “Welcome home.”
After the crowd finished cheering, there was not a dry eye to be found. The general and Congressman Levin acknowledged it had taken 47 years to right this wrong, and by recognizing and honoring Herman, they honored our American sense of justice.
It was a good day to be an American, a better day to be a Vietnam vet, and finest day imaginable to be Herman Johnson and Fred Rivera.