A Proud day for us all

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.”

Lt. General Guy Swan and Sgt John Marek at the Wall in DC
Lt. General Guy Swan and Sgt John Marek at the Wall in DC

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.


Herman and Fred(Fred wearing the bracelet made from Herman's bootlaces 47 years ago.
Herman and Fred(Fred wearing the bracelet made from Herman’s bootlaces 47 years ago.  

10 thoughts on “A Proud day for us all

  1. Thornton Sully says:

    Tears in my eyes as I write this post, and recall that magical day. You’ll be hearing more about this. What a marvelous antidote to events and cynicism the news has been generating lately. I was immensely proud and honored to have witnessed all this, and to have played my part.

    • SGT John Marek says:

      Well put, Thorn. I am honored that I was albeit a small part in such a huge achievement. Two fellow veterans have finally come home.

  2. James Joyce says:

    Congratulations Thorn on making this wonderful event happen. When it comes to “dogs” there’s a lot of “dog” in you too. It must have been such a special place to be, watching these old friends and comrades in arms for ever meet again after so many long and lost years. And all down to Sully the Dog. Well done.

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    The bonds of friendship, love and brotherhood do indeed endure over time, but seldom find their way home to a memorial of less fortunates as eloquently or in such devotion. Truly a heartwarming story for the ages. My congratulations and praise are humbly offered to all whom made this reunion possible. My heart and joyful tears are with both of you, Herman and Fred. Thank you for sharing this uncanny love story.

  4. Michael Stang says:

    I imagine the private moments between Fred and Herman after the day of splendor at the wall. What does their future look like now, post miracle? Like winning the lottery, what will they do? Best wishes to the both of them as they continue to enrich our lives.

  5. Mary Carraway says:

    Wow,just saw this,it is just wonderful,I lived in Michigan for 12 years,and I know Herman and his family,job well done Herman,and much deserved. I’m even touched,great news.

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