MP Soldier receives Purple Heart
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley, left, salutes Sgt. Marcus Johnson, squad leader, 287th MP Co., 97th MP Bn., right, after awarding him the Purple Heart Aug. 23 at Fort Riley. Johnson was injured March 22, 2012, during an insurgent attack in Afghanistan. Photo by: Amanda Kim Stairrett, 1ST INF. DIV.
Story by: Staff Writer Dena O'Dell
1st Infantry Division, PAO
At first, there was nothing going on from Tower Three, overlooking a police substation in Afghanistan. People could be seen walking. It was a clear night. But just as Sgt. Marcus Johnson, squad leader, 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, bent down to tie his boot, the bomb went off, and everything changed.
"The next thing you know, I just see orange, and there's dust and like little pieces of wood hitting my face as I'm flying back (out) of the tower," he said.
That was the way Johnson described what happened to him March 22, 2012 – the day his unit came under attack by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, followed by small arms fire in Afghanistan.
Johnson was awarded a Purple Heart from Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, in front of his 97th MP Bn. peers Aug. 23 at Fort Riley, for wounds he suffered during the attack in Afghanistan.
On that date, it was Johnson's squad's turn to do base defense while another squad went out to run missions, he recalled.
Just as the other squad was about to leave for its mission, that's when Johnson's unit was attacked. The next thing Johnson knew, he was flying backwards out of the tower and landed on top of the roof of the police compound, he said.
"I laid there afterwards. I probably flew back about five feet. There's like these little solar panels on the roof that stopped me from going over," he said.
At first, Johnson said, he was in shock.
He remembered feeling really dizzy, having a bad headache and feeling some ringing in his ears, he said. And, although he only had a scratch on his face from the wood, he said his entire body was in pain.
"I felt like I lost some part of my limbs or something. It was scary. At first, I felt like I was going to die," he said.
After reassessing himself, Johnson said he was able to locate his platoon sergeant, and both Soldiers tried to figure out what was happening. That's when the unit started taking fire from insurgents, Johnson said, and both he and his platoon sergeant began engaging the insurgents back.
"I just remembered the training and reacted. All the stuff we trained on came back. I wanted to come back home (alive)," he said.
Following the fire fight, Johnson was transported to Camp Nathan Smith, where he was evaluated and then medically evacuated to Kandahar Airfield for further testing, he said.
There, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and remained at the Warrior Transition Battalion for about a week, before returning to full duty and completing his deployment. The unit redeployed to Fort Riley in January 2013.
Johnson said he was relieved he received the Purple Heart.
"I have been kind of waiting on it because it's been showing up on my (Enlisted Record Brief)," he said. "My old first sergeant, he tried to push it to where we could get it, but he wasn't able to, so I just waited patiently. I was happy I finally got it."
After awarding Johnson the Purple Heart, Funk told the 97th MP Bn. Soldiers the Army is a small place – and it is all about people.
Funk said Johnson has affected his life, revealing the Soldier taught his son how to play football during a Junction City High School football camp and also went to the same college as his wife, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas, where Johnson played football for a coach who happens to be friends with the Funks.
In addition to awarding Johnson the Purple Heart, Funk also presented Sgt. 1st Class Katherine Bingley, 287th MP Co., 97th MP Bn., with a commander's coin. Bingley was Johnson's platoon sergeant at the time of the attack in Afghanistan. Funk recognized her for supporting and helping Johnson through his injuries.
"That's what it means to catch people doing things right," Funk told the Soldiers, as he presented Bingley with the coin. "You saw Sgt. (1st Class) Bingley come up and get a coin because she cared. She reached out. She made sure one of her warriors was getting back into the fight. That's what this is about. The Army's about people."