You will not believe what happened and what is happening. Five years ago three Iraq veterans started a closed facebook page titled, Veterans With PTSD. They felt that by communicating with others suffering from the horrors of war, they could start to heal themselves. In 2014 I joined and as I journaled, they found that they liked what I had to say being older and more experienced. They made me Administrator. One of the three is Sgt. John Marek and he and I developed a friendship that grew from facebook postings to phone calls. When Raw Man was released in 2015, he bought book #1 in the Author’s Limited Edition. He loved the book and our friendship grew. At the beginning of April, he wanted to send me a gift for the help he feels he has received from me. It was an etching of Herman’s name from The Wall but it was missing. John called me and we both went into shock. He is Military Police and asked me if I wanted him to find Herman. I said yes and he issued a BOLO for the Detroit area that came out with so many Herman Johnson’s that he decided to contact the Blackhorse Association and they had a HJ living in Warren MI. He sent a three-man team to the address and they reported signs of live with no occupant. He sent them out again three days later and received the same report. John asked me if we wanted to continue and I told him to shut the op down and give me the address.
I was in shock, emotionally topsy-turvy and wrote him a letter and carried it in my car for three weeks before having the courage to send it one day. Why so scared you may ask? I felt fraudulent. The most traumatic event ever to happen to me in the last 47 years was not real. Memories had twisted and turned into shapes so foreign to me that I could not accept them.
THEN HE CALLED.
The first words out of his mouth were, “Fred, my nigger! It was the 20-year-old best friend that I lost in Vietnam. We talked for five hours that first day. He said that I was a crazy killing machine. That scared the shit out of me. I don’t remember being overly aggressive. He was adamant that I was “a crazy motherfucker.” Before I told him about the book, he talked about how we set up trip flares and claymores every night. Then he said “We even took acid!” I told him I wrote a whole chapter about it. That’s when I told him about my book and how he died in my arms. He said “Fred, I did die in your arms. I was unconscious from taking shrapnel to my head and a head wound bleed like a stuffed pig. That’s why you thought it was the carotid. But I knew you were holding me. Real tight. I heard you screaming at the medics when they tried to pry me loose from your grasp. But Fred I did die! When I came to I saw blue skies and a tag on my toe.”
Within days, I was able to get a copy of his field treatment. The medic stated that he treated Johnson for a head wound, dressed it and returned him to the line to resume his duty as a machine gunner due to the intense enemy attack. I was able to locate the medic who is now an MD and he wrote an affidavit, I wrote one, and Sgt. Marek wrote one and I obtained the form to get Herman the Purple Heart that he never received. Herman signed me over as console and I contacted his Congressman, spoke to an aid who when I told him the story, was knocked out. It seems like just the day before he saw Herman walking in the parking lot of the aid’s apartment complex carrying an armful of photos. Seeing him struggling, the aid stopped and asked him if he needed help. Herman went on to tell him this bizarre story about finding his best friend from Vietnam who thought he was dead. The aid presented Herman with the same medallion that I have of the 50th Commemoration of Vietnam. Can you imagine the look on the aid’s face when he went to work the next day and found my email in his inbox? This was too strange. There was something at work in the Universe beyond our comprehension.
Congressman Levi realized this and just this morning Herman met with him and took him all the paperwork that I had prepared to obtain the Purple Heart before July 9.
Wait a minute. What is July 9? Oh I forgot to tell you that in 1995 I was one of the first American veterans to visit Vietnam. I met a wonderful documentary filmmaker named Richard Chisolm from Baltimore. We have been friends since then. After speaking to Herman, we decided that we had to meet. We had to see and touch each other’s faces. Herman told me that the first words out of his mouth when he came to were “Where’s Fred?”
Richard agreed to film the reunion and Herman and I decided to meet at the Wall. We are raising money via GoFundMe an internet platform for raising money. My publisher and I are going to write a new book about our lives intertwining during the last 47 years.
Friends and family have been more than generous. One donated all round trip airfares for Lynda and me, Sgt. Marek, Herman, and my publisher Thornton Sully. Another has paid for 5 suites for 5 nights at the River Inn in DC. We have raised $2,000 on GoFundMe to cover the film crew. We still need a few more dollars to cover food, transportation, and incidentals. If you can afford $25 please help us to be financially secure on this once in a lifetime event.
Please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/23zqxwyc