Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Howard Johnson II, who was one of the first casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Howard Johnson II was born in January 1982 in Mobile County, Alabama, to Reverend Howard Johnson and private school educator Gloria Johnson.
Johnson was part of the JROTC program at LeFlore High School. Following his graduation in 2001, he originally enrolled at Mobile’s Southeast College of Technology to study computers. However, one week before beginning studies, he encountered a military recruiter at a local mall and decided to enlist. Johnson’s goal was to continue his education through the military.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Johnson was assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and felt a sense of patriotism in countering the terrorists of al-Qaeda responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
While stationed in Kuwait, Johnson frequently communicated with his family, detailing his geographical and cultural fascination of Kuwait. He even asked his father to send him a camera and a phone card to document Kuwait’s beauty.
Johnson aspired to operate and teach at his mother’s K-12 school. Unfortunately, Howard’s dream never came true. He was killed in action on March 23, 2003, when enemy forces in Nasiriyah, Iraq, ambushed the 507th Maintenance Company. He was only 21 years old at the time of his death, and he was the first Alabamian to die during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Johnson posthumously received a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
His father conducted his funeral and was heartbroken from the loss of his son. Johnson’s parents turned to their faith to cope with the pain of losing their son. “The Lord picked me up and put me on a higher level,” Johnson’s mother said in reference to her strong faith.
To honor his name and the sacrifice he made for his country, the city of Mobile renamed their park Howard Johnson II Park. In West Mobile, his mother renamed her private school Pfc. Howard Johnson II Academy and Childcare Center. Johnson’s nephews – Zurich Edwards, Alton Edwards and Howard Johnson Edwards – attended this school.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Adrienne Brookstein
Editor: Jacob Reis and Cassidy Reid
Fact checker: Bhaavana Oruganty
Graphic artist: Katie Rahill