Before you blow your top about the holiday hassle at the airport, the long lines at the grocery store, all the hours you’ll spend cooking and cleaning, the uninvited guests who are crashing hubby’s football party, and the endless Christmas shopping list that awaits, just stop.
Stop and think of the Johnson family. Army Spc. John Austin Johnson of El Paso, Texas, is recovering from massive head wounds sustained in an IED attack. Johnson is a member of Fort Bliss’ 4-1 Cavalry. He had survived five previous bombing incidents. That is not all.
Earlier this month, Johnson and his wife, Mona Lisa, buried their 9-year-old son, Tyler Anthony Johnson. The little boy had been on life support for several weeks after sustaining critical injuries in a horrible car accident. He was on his way with his family to see his dad in recuperation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He never made it. The family car rolled over several times after being hit by powerful blasts of wind. Tyler was laid to rest at Pinecrest Memorial Park in Benton, Ark. That is not all.
The Johnsons had two other children. Ashley Mishelle was 5 years old. Logan Wesley was 2. They were killed instantly in the same car crash that claimed their older brother’s life. During the funeral service, the Benton Courier reported, the program included Ashley Mishelle’s favorite song — Ashley Simpson’s "Pieces of Me" — and Sarah McLachlan’s haunting "In the Arms of an Angel." White doves were donated by a retired military officer.
To lose one child is devastating enough. To lose three? While recovering from traumatic war injuries? And to bury three little angels just weeks before Thanksgiving? No parent can read of suffering like that of the Johnsons and indulge the petty, selfish complaints of holiday gripers and road-ragers. The complainers featured on the nightly news this week wallowing in self-pity over a few hours’ delay on the road or in the air need to get a grip, get over themselves and get some perspective.
C.S. Lewis wrote famously that "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Thankfully, countless citizens were roused by the Johnsons’ plight — and demonstrated that the American giving spirit lasts 365 days a year.
More than 200 Patriot Guard Riders, the volunteer band of motorcycle enthusiasts who provide protection during military funerals, served as Tyler’s pallbearers. The Patriot Guards traveled from Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana to attend. Anonymous donors provided the gravesites and markers for the children’s plots. That is not all.
Soldiers’ Angels provided hotel stays as needed for the Johnsons’ extended family in Dallas, a Brooke Army Medical Center official told the American Forces Press Service. The group also provided funding for food and other basic needs. The Dallas Veteran Service Organization and the Veterans of Foreign Wars pitched in with meals. Operation Comfort covered gas for rental cars, which were provided by Hertz and National. That is not all.
The Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles program provided travel for Johnson to get to his injured wife. American Airlines picked up the tab for the Johnsons to travel to their children’s funerals. The Professional Golfers Association raised $95,000 for a new car and other expenses. Operation Homefront will use leftover funds to build a permanent memorial playground in the children’s honor at Fort Bliss.
Before Thanksgiving brings out the worst in you, stop before you gripe. Give thanks for noisy houses, healthy children and overflowing company. Give thanks for bounteous tables, rambunctious friends and neighbors, life and limb. And give thanks for those who give of themselves — in service to our nation, in civic duty and in answer to His call — all year ’round. That is all.