WWII Veteran honored in military service 70 years after he died

A U.S. Marine killed in action during World War II was honored in a special ceremony in the North Valley seven decades after he died ? and his son played an important role in his service.
January 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A U.S. Marine killed in action during World War II was honored in a special ceremony in the North Valley seven decades after he died -- and his son played an important role in his service.

Kevin Johnson was just a small boy when his father, Cpl. Thomas Johnson, was killed fighting for his country. He remembers gathering around the grave with his family -- with no taps, no color guard and no gun volley.

After joining the volunteer Honor Guard three years ago and performing dozens of military funerals for other Valley families, he and his group decided it was time to honor his father.

The 75 year old former naval airman stood in uniform, serving as a rifleman in his father's own memorial, as fellow members of the volunteer Honor Guard of American Veterans Post 56 travelled from Tulare to Chowchilla to perform a full military funeral left undone 70 years ago.

"It's the greatest day of my life to be able to do this for my Dad," said Johnson. "It's something that's bothered me and bothered me and bothered me. He never had the funeral he deserved and these guys made it possible."

Johnson was just five years old when his father enlisted in the Marines.

"I have memories of him bringing me a little red wagon when I was a kid," he added.

He said he joined in hopes of rescuing his brother from Japanese-held Corregidor in the Philippines.

Johnson said his uncle survived a Japanese POW camp, but his father was killed in combat during the invasion of Guam in 1944.

When his remains were dug up and returned to the United States two years later for burial, Johnson explained just a single Marine escorted his casket on the train and presented the flag to his family.

That didn't sit well with his fellow veterans who showed up to the Chowchilla Cemetery Monday morning.

"It's quite important that our brothers and sisters receive the proper salute as they leave this world to whatever is beyond and it's an honor for us to see that it's done properly" said Alexander Halley, Commander of the Post.

Halley and about a dozen other AM Vets from Tulare, joined Johnson in honoring his father. They stood by his side as he fired three rounds for the man he never got the chance to get to know; the man who dedicated his life to serving our country.

"I think it's awesome," said Tina Soper, member of the Marine Corps. League.

"Even though it's late, it's wonderful. Every soldier, marine, navy, anybody should have a service like this."

A service bringing Johnson closure almost a lifetime after his father's death.

"It brings me some closure," he said.

The AM Vets Post of Tulare has about 2,000 members. The group performs military funerals all over the Valley and has done so since 1963.


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