As Memorial Day approaches, EHS honors…

Those who serve


In one short month, US citizens will celebrate Memorial day throughout the country, honoring those who have paid the ultimate price. This federal holiday is on Monday May 27 and proves to be a special day for  many people. One family in particular has recently lost the life of a World War II veteran, Gordon Johnson. He lived a remarkable life, and fortunately I got the opportunity to record his story two weeks before his death. He lived an amazing life, and I did not want it to go untold.

Before Mr. Johnson entered the war, he focused on getting an education. He was accepted to go to college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins at a time when going to college was “unheard of.” Mr. Johnson did not want to wait to be drafted into World War II, so he joined the United States Army Air Force. Becoming a pilot was very competitive, but he made it in and flew one of the most dangerous missions–the Burma Hump.

This was a flight over the Himalayan Mountain Range which proved to be risky because the flight had to be executed perfectly over mountains that peaked at 29,000 feet. It did not help Mr. Johnson that most of the maps were outdated or horribly inaccurate. He explained, “We would be inside a cloud, holding our breath. Finally the cloud would break, and we would look to our right and see a mountain peak standing taller than our plane. We got lucky.” He flew exactly 84 trips from India to China, and miraculously made it out alive. He said, “I was an unusual success story.” After the war, Mr. Johnson flew into Florida. He took a train all the way to San Francisco. This moment was unforgettable to Mr. Johnson, “I was walking through a great big terminal, and when I looked up, the only person I could see was Wanda, my wife.

She had this perky little hat on and a nice dress. All I could think about was getting to her and giving her a big kiss.” He resigned being a pilot, finished his schooling for mechanical engineering, got married, and started a family business. After the interview I was very intrigued by his life.

I left wanting to know more, so I planned on seeing him again. I sat down and wrote him a letter saying how much it meant to hear his story. I wish I would have heard it sooner because he never got to read my letter, and the details of his story I so desperately wanted to hear will never be told.

Two weeks after my interview, recording every piece of his life, he passed away at the age of 96. He was an amazing man with an incredible story. It would have never been recorded if I hadn’t interviewed him for American literature. I realized that it is very important to recognize and celebrate the ones who have risked their lives for our country.

AIt is truly fascinating to hear the incredible stories that they hold. Their stories are treasures that need to be recorded, and many veterans are leaving their stories untold every day. Let this memorial day be a reminder to step out of your comfort zone and hear the stories that are waiting for someone to sit down and listen.