David Allen Johnston Killed in action March 3, 1969. While in close combat with forces of the North Vietnamese Army in Cam Lo South Vietnam.

Dave was my best friend in school, We were two of the schools trouble makers. We hung around together all the time. We were known as the “Black Label Boys”.

I enlisted first in the Marines on a deferred enlistment to begin in June after graduation. I was assigned to the 1st. Marine Combat Engineers Battalion.
Kenny and Harry, two other buddies in our graduating class enlisted a week after I left for boot camp. Dave enlisted after I came home on leave just before leaving for Nam. He had to wait until he was 18 to enlist because his parents refused to sign for him. Dave was a machine gunner assigned to 3rd Battalion 3rd Marine regiment as a rifleman.

I was wounded in June 1968. Dave had been wounded 2 other times before, both flesh wounds. On March 3, 1969 India Company 3/3 was in heavy combat in Cam Lo area when 1st Platoon; Dave’s platoon was caught in a crossfire between 2 NVA units of unknown size. Less than half of his platoon survived. Dave did not.

I was working part time while recovering from my own wounds in the service record book section of the Philadelphia Naval Hospital escort detachment.
We would assign people to go to Dover, Delaware and pick up the remains of those Marines killed in action from the eastern half of the US. On March 4th. 1969 I received Dave’s record book to notify escort company of the arrival time of Dave’s remains. I called Dave’s parents who were notified the same day. I asked his mom and dad if I could have the honor of escorting him to them. They said they would like that.

I was given a brief training and sent by bus to Dover where I met a cargo plane bringing back the remains of dozens of our fallen. Dave was among them. We were loaded on a plane back to Phil Adelphia where we were connected to Columbus. Each time Dave was removed from one plane and placed on another everyone (Military) stood at attention and saluted until the loading or unloading was complete. When we arrived in Columbus, I deplaned before Dave was unloaded. People stood and watched while I saluted as he was removed from the plane and put into the hearse.

The funeral director took us (Dave and I) to the funeral home where he asked if I wished to view the remains to help him decide if Dave could be made viewable. Dave had sustained a fatal shot to the left rear of his head exiting through the face. There was no face remaining. I identified and verified his records by a tattoo he had on his left shoulder over a birthmark. The funeral director advised the family that there could be no viewing of his remains. I went home to visit my family until the next morning when the funeral director picked me up and took me back to the funeral home where I remained on guard over Dave for all the hours of operation until Dave was buried 2 days later.

After the burial service grave side, I folded the flag over his casket with the help of the funeral director and presented it to his mom. I remained at his side until all the guests were gone and said my good bye’s. The funeral director took me back to the airport to fly back to Philly.

This is what Memorial Day is really about.

Many of you have lost loved ones, friends relatives.

God said. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends".
New Living Translation. John 15:13

Honor God by honoring those who paid it all!

Father. We thank you for your love for us. But today we honor all those who have gone before to give that paid that last full measure. Let us never forget the price paid by your son and ours for this freedom to worship you in Spirit and in Truth.