1st parish Vietnam War death took place about 52 years ago

Published 3:32 am Wednesday, June 26, 2019

June can be a difficult month for Geraldine Johnson Davis and her family.

Davis’s brother, Andrew Johnson, lost his life during the Vietnam War on June 25, 1967, in the Dinh Tuong province of South Vietnam. He was just 19 years old — his birthday was May 24, 1948.

Johnson was a Specialist Four in the U.S. Army. He served in the 9th Infantry Division, 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, A Company. His name is memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. — it is on panel 22E, line 62.

Davis said Johnson was the first Vietnam War casualty from Washington Parish.

“It’s tough to remember that day, but he was a hero to our family and to his parish,” Davis said.

Davis said that her brother was the second child of 11 children. His parents are Eddie Johnson Sr., himself a World War II veteran, and Celestina M. Johnson.

She said that military service runs in her family’s blood. Andrew Johnson’s father, and all but two of Johnson’s brothers, were in the Army.

“Andrew was a very good student in school,” she said. “He finished school and then decided to join the Army. He joined the military so that his mother could stay home, because he didn’t want her to have to work.”

Davis said that she still has vivid memories of when a U.S. Army representative knocked on the family’s door to relay the horrible news of her brother’s death.

“It was the 3rd of July when the military contacted us, and he was buried on the 4th of July,” she said. “I’ll never forget that day.”

Davis noted that Bogalusa-born poet Yusef Komunyakaa also memorialized Johnson in his poem, “Facing It,” about the Vietnam War. Komunyakaa, a friend of the Johnson family, wrote:

“I touch the name Andrew Johnson;

I see the booby trap’s white flash.”

In a post on a website memorializing the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a user named Hignio Vazquez wrote of knowing Johnson, as they served in the same “Old Reliables” platoon for a time.

“After all this years I still remember the tough times that we went through,” Vazquez wrote. “I admit that you were a better soldier than I was. When I needed someone to take over the machine gun you volunteered, and when I needed a good man to go on patrol with me you always said yes …

“I should have died many times over (in battle) but I guess that the Lord doesn’t want me up there yet. Until we meet again, rest in peace my dear friend.”