Norman Johnson was committed to service.
From the age of 17, until he retired at age 37, that service was to the US Army - which, by the way included a stint in Vietnam. Though the fighting has been over now for five decades, he’s still being honored for his commitment.
On June 20, Johnson, was one of nine Texans, 166 soldiers overall, that received thanks as his name was read aloud at the National Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. as part of the “In Memory Honor Roll.”
Even though Johnson received the recognition posthumously, his wife Ann, both from Weatherford, was on hand for the special honor.
“It was very special, much more emotional than I could dream,” Ann said.
She said that for veterans to receive the honor they must first pass certain criteria.
“It’s for veterans that don’t meet the Department of Defense criteria to be ‘on the wall,’ but that their deaths occur as a indirect result of the Vietnam War.”
She said her husbands death was service connected due to his exposure of Agent Orange.
“He had cancer,” Ann said. “I had to fight the Veterans Affairs (VA), he had applied for 100 percent disability in 2012 when his file was marked ‘terminal.’”
She said in 2014, however, they were denied, and on his death bed Norman asked her to, “please don’t let them win.”
“He told me to do what ever I had to,” Ann said. And with emotion in her voice she said, “I won just a couple of months ago,” she added.
Ann said it’s her belief that all Vietnam Veterans were killed in Vietnam, they just eventually die where ever they live.
“It’s because of all that exposure to the defoliants,” she said.
Norman lost his battle with cancer in August of 2013.
In the end Ann received a letter from the VA saying that Norman’s denial of benefits was in error, that in fact his death was service connected. The only thing was the letter said it was due to, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” Ann said. “I asked an attorney why they worded it that way and her reply was, ‘the VA does not want to admit cancer exist the result of exposure to anything in Vietnam.’”
As for the honor Ann said she was “thrilled.”
“I loved Norm with a love you can only read about in books,” Ann said. “I was devastated when he died.”
She said even today, with every decision she makes, she wonders if it would make him proud.
In the fifty years since the ending of hostilities in Vietnam, Ann said she has always been grateful to all veterans, for their service.
“It makes me sad that the Vietnam Veterans didn’t get that,” she said. “But I appreciate that people are understanding the Vietnam War more and telling the Vietnam Veterans welcome home.”
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
While The Wall shows the names of those soldiers who died in the war, veterans who suffered from medical issues caused by their service in Vietnam – exposure to defoliant spray and psychological wounds – absent from The Wall. VVMF believes that all those who serve should be honored. Therefore, the In Memory program began in an effort to acknowledge the hardships these veterans and their families went through and the strengths they possessed after the war ended. The In Memory program honors the sacrifices these veterans and their families made. The In Memory Day ceremony has become a place where families who faced similar hardships gather and help each other begin or continue their healing processes. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund's In Memory program honors those who died as a result of the Vietnam War, but whose deaths do not fit the Department of Defense criteria for inclusion upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
All of the items below do fit the criteria for inclusion in VVMF's In Memory program:
▪ PTSD related illnesses / events
▪ Exposure to Agent Orange and similar chemicals
▪ Heart Attack
If you have a question about the program or are experiencing difficulty with the application, contact VVMF at 202-393-0090 or via e-mail at email@example.com.