Deceased soldier honored by his Gold Star siblings at Yarmouth Memorial Day ceremony
SOUTH YARMOUTH – The dozen motorcycles from Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen had come and gone, and firefighters were rolling up the 10ft by 20ft flag that hung from an elongated ladder above. Jeffrey Johnson and his wife, Linda, hung around the Memorial Day ceremony in Yarmouth for a bit longer, chatting with those who had come to honor the memory of those who fell in battle, and in particular, Johnson’s older brother, Theodore Fred Johnson, who was killed in action in Vietnam in January 1968.
Glancing over to where his brother’s photo was on a table, centered on a row of flags outside City Hall, Jeffrey Johnson said his brother would have been puzzled by all the commotion .
But Jeffrey was not at all surprised by the attention. He was only 7 when his brother died, and his memories of that time are patchy, but he remembers being in the motorcade taking his brother’s body to the cemetery and turning in his seat to look by. the back window to see an endless train. of cars, lights on, behind, with people lining the streets on both sides.
“It affected my father enormously; the loss of her son, “said Jeffrey.” I don’t think he ever got over it. “
For many, a Memorial Day vacation is the gateway to the summer season, with barbecues and, weather permitting, a trip to the beach. But for the families of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, there is a dark undercurrent, steeped in memorial services and other tributes that take place in virtually every town in Cape Town. It is something that is woven into the fabric of their life.
“It was a time in life you will never forget: the cemetery, the walk there,” said Jeffrey’s brother Steve. He was 15 when tragedy struck, old enough to remember the painful details.
Her brother Ted was the type on the outside. Growing up in Brockton, he loved hot rods, motorcycles, girls. Steve and Ted attended the Berwick Boys Foundation residential summer camp in Maine, and the family spent summers at a cabin in Dennis Port.
“He liked the thrills, everything that was thrilling,” said Steve, who always saw his brother as a type of white knight, helping people.
In 1967, Ted Johnson was 18 and enlisted in the military with a group of his friends. His older brother Harry had done the same and was stationed in Germany. But Ted returned home briefly after his basic training in December 1967 en route to Vietnam.
Pictures: Memorial Day Cape Cod 2021
The eldest of seven siblings saw him go to Logan. Steve bought him two packs of Old Gold cigarettes, a joke shared from the previous summer in which Steve got into trouble when the cigarettes Ted hid in his younger brother’s rolled up jeans were discovered by their parents.
In less than a month, Ted Johnson was dead, killed at the start of his first mission. He was part of the 101st Airborne Division of the army and landed in Binh Duong province. On January 18, 1968, as his unit headed for departure, he was struck by shrapnel from a mortar shell fired by his own unit which had exploded against a nearby tree.
Jeffrey was sleeping, but Steve woke up to the sound of a car in the driveway. Dawn had just risen and when he saw a military chaplain and two uniforms come out of the car, he knew what was going to happen.
Jeffrey remembered hearing a knock on the door, hearing the commotion, the crying.
“They came over to tell me, and I said, ‘I know’ and I turned around,” Steve said. “When that happens you are numb, you don’t think about anything else.”
The two brothers visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, where they found Ted’s name on the large black wall.
“It was tough, it was tough,” Steve said. “It brings you right back to when he was killed.”
Over the years, the family has evolved. Yet they were talking about what could have been for their brother, their son. Wishful thinking. The and ifs.
“There have been times in my life when I think about Ted; where would he be now, what would he do? Said Jeffrey.
Steve said his older brother wanted to move to Maine or New Hampshire, to be a game ranger or a ranger.
“It would have been good for him,” he said.
Contact Doug Fraser at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.