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Calumet native killed in ambush; first
U.P. resident to die in Iraq war
By RYAN OLSON
The Daily Mining Gazette
Oct. 22, 2003; pp 1,9A
HOUGHTON When Mary Johnson last spoke with her husband Saturday,
Army Staff Sgt. Paul J. Johnson marveled at how fortunate his unit
had been throughout the war in Iraq.
He was just saying that it was amazing that
we havent gotten hit yet, Mary Johnson said Tuesday
from her home in Fayetteville, N.C.
She urged her husband to take care of himself.
I was always telling him, Be safe, and
I know that youve got to look out for other guys, but youve
got to look out for yourself, too, she said.
Calumet native Paul Johnson, 29, a member of the 82nd
Airborne Division, was killed Monday in a midday ambush in Fallujah,
Iraq. He was raised in Calumet and graduated from Calumet High School.
He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. and lived in nearby Fayetteville
with his wife Mary and 4-year-old son Bryan.
He is the first Upper Peninsula native to be killed
in the war, and the 14th Michigander.
Mary Johnson said her husband died an honorable, duty-bound
He wanted to be there for his guys and that
was important for him to see the job done well, she
Paul Johnson was recalled by family and friends as
a caring man who loved his family, working in his yard, building
things and playing hockey. His mother-in-law and next-door neighbor
Ann Scoggins said Johnson known as PJ was the type
of person everyone immediately liked.
PJ is the kind of son-in-law that every mother
would want her daughter to marry, Scoggins said.
She said Johnson was a handsome man standing 5 feet,
9 inches tall with brown hair. She urged everyone to put a human
face on wartime casualties.
Its important to remember that every name
you see scrolling on the TV belongs to a family, Scoggins
Johnson was part of a dismounted patrol consisting
of 30 soldiers and five Humvees heading into Fallujah, west of Baghdad,
according to The Associated Press. Insurgents attacked Johnsons
vehicle by detonating a homemade bomb and opened fire on the patrol
with small arms, the U.S. command said.
Witnesses said the patrol returned fire and detained
at least nine Iraqis. Six soldiers were wounded in the skirmish
and taken to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. The U.S.
Department of Defense said the attack is under investigation.
The ambush occurred near where an ammunition truck
was attacked Sunday after a breakdown.
Johnson graduated from Calumet High School in 1991.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1993 and was assigned to
the 82nd Airborne Division in 1999.
Mary and Paul Johnson married in April 1996.
Johnson briefly left the Army and returned to Calumet
in 1997 with his wife. Mary Johnson said her husband enjoyed living
in the area.
He just liked how close the town was,
she said. You pretty much know anybody in town.
After about a year in the Copper Country, Johnson
decided to re-enlist in the Army as a career soldier.
His love was for the Army, and he wanted to
do that long-term, Mary Johnson said.
Paul Johnson was a squad leader in Alpha Company,
1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, according to the
Fayetteville Observer. Johnsons awards included a combat infantry
badge and a bronze star for heroism in battle. He was a senior rated
Before being deployed to Iraq in mid-August, Johnson
served for six months in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring
Freedom and for a year in Bosnia before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist
Scoggins said her son-in-law loved his family and
He felt the need to make the change, to make
the difference, she said.
Scoggins said Johnson planned to seek a new assignment
Calumet resident and friend Matt Nagel described Johnson
as a goofball, who passionately pursued anything that
attracted his interest.
He was a spontaneous, very charismatic type
of personality, Nagel said.
Nagel and Johnson were once stationed at Fort Bragg
at the same time, but in different units. Johnson, Nagel said, was
pursuing a life-long dream of serving in the Army.
For him to be able to go and be able to do his
job, that was him in his element, Nagel said.
Johnson loved hockey and was a Detroit Red Wings fan
who often took his son Bryan to hockey games around North Carolina,
Mary Johnson said.
Nagel said Johnson loved playing goalie during pick-up
games in the Copper Country.
You have to have a certain mentality to be a
goalie and he fit, Nagel said.
A total of 339 Americans have died since the Iraq
war began March 20, including 218 in combat.
Mary Johnson said funeral arrangements are still tentative
but that services will be held in Fayetteville. Most of Johnsons
family, which no longer resides in the Copper Country, is en route
to North Carolina. She said a memorial service may be held in Michigan.
Efforts to contact Johnsons parents, who are
no longer living in the area, were unsuccessful.