Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thank you to the Minnesota Patriot Guard from the family of SFC Leslie M Johnson

I am writing to thank the Minnesota Patriot Guard for all they have done for my brother SFC Leslie M Johnson. 

Let me start from the beginning. My brother Les was in his 20th year in the army as an MP.In March 2008 he found out he had cancer. He fought, but this fight he was not winning. he lived in Fort Polk, LA. His large family lived up here in Minnesota. He chose to stay down there where his wife's family is and get treatment in Houston TX. We all got down to see him there and it was a very hard thing for us to come back to Minnesota without him. We felt helpless. Lots of phone calls is all we had along with prays. As months went by, Les was getting worse. 

Around Christmas time, Les' wife asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he wanted to go home , which was Rochester Mn. Money was tight for them, so all eight of Les' siblings got together and bought 5 airline tickets for Les, his wife, two boys and their dog, to be flown home on Dec 21, 2008. A co-worker of mine, Wanda told me about the Patriot Guard and how they could give my brother a warm welcome home and she explained to me about what the Patriots were all about. I was so excited! 

She had Jim Nelson call me. After many conversations and planning,the Patriots were to be lining up over the 75th bridge welcoming my brother as he came down Hwy 52S from the Minneapolis airport in a limo that was donated in the homecoming. Also was the police and fire department to greet him. We posted this homecoming in the local newspaper to invite everyone around to help in the welcoming. It was a big and exciting day to come. Giving my brother the honor he deserves. On the morning of Dec 21, my brother took a turn for the worse. He was unable to fly and was admitted to the hospital. We all were so devastated. Tears were non stop. As I write this part, my eyes have teared.I had to call Jim and let him know. He got an e-mail out telling the Patriots it had been canceled. My sister and I thought we should go out to the bridge and let everyone that came out for the event know of the cancellation. 

When we got there, there were already about 30 Patriots standing with their flags in below 0 temps, all bundled up to welcome Les home. We informed them of the sad news. A few more people came and we had to tell them also. We heard later how there were people holding flags all along the highway in different areas waiting for him to pass by. It was going to be just a wonderful welcome home for him. We were told Les had about a month. We all knew we had to get down there but money was such an issue with it being tied up in the airline tickets, which would not be refunded back to us until we showed them my brothers death cert. Really sad of them don't you think? Then for some of my family to get off work again was tough. So we thought he needs his mother and father the most. But my mom and dad have never flown before so we know one sibling had to go along. But then money was an issue. It was around Christmas time and presents were bought so you know how broke everyone is at that time. 

Jim and I stayed in contact a lot so that I could fill him in on how everything was going. As our family was trying to figure our money together, Jim gave me a call to inform me that the Patriot Guard had a gift for us, or rather my parents. He met me out at my parents house along with a beautiful red, white and blue crocheted blanket done by a wonderful woman we didn't even know. She wanted it to be given to my brother. The Patriots gave a $1000.00 check to my parents to buy airline tickets to get them down to their son. Was that prayers answered or what!

Instead of using the money for airline tickets we used it for rental cars and we all drove down to see him. We all thought or rather knew it was the last time we would see him, and it was. Les past away Jan 20 2009. The military came to our parents home the day he passed and said they are here to do what they can to make sure Les family get down for his funeral.Once again our prayers were answered. 

The military bought my parents and all 8 siblings airline tickets, and rental cars while down there along with hotel stay and food. We could not believe it. The military told us for the 21 years SFC Johnson has served for our country this is the least they could do. They treated us like royalty down there. The funeral was Jan 26 in Texas. Later in March we decided to have a memorial service for Les here in Rochester Mn. I gave Jim a call and asked if the Patriot Guard would do the honor of being at my brothers service. He made the contacts and on March 22 we had the most beautiful and honorable service for Les at the Soldiers Field Memorial. Patriot Guards were all lined up all around the memorial grounds along with a 21 gun salute and "Taps" from the American Legion. MPs from all around, friends and family also joined the service. The day couldn't have been more perfect, the sun shinning down on us as if my brother was telling us he's at peace with no more pain, and looking down at the respect of his fellow man, the army and his loved ones. To The Patriot Guard, we the Johnson family will never forget what you have done for our family and especially for my brother SFC LESLIE M. JOHNSON. 
With all our respects;
Linda and the Johnson family