Calumet native killed in ambush; first U.P.
resident to die in Iraq war
He was just saying that it was amazing that we havent
gotten hit yet, Mary Johnson said Tuesday from her home in Fayetteville,
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 said.
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
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
Its important to remember that every name you
see scrolling on the TV belongs to a family, Scoggins said.
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
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 jumpmaster.
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 attacks.
Scoggins said her son-in-law loved his family and his country.
He felt the need to make the change, to make the difference,
Scoggins said Johnson planned to seek a new assignment stateside.
Calumet resident and friend Matt Nagel described Johnson
as a goofball, who passionately pursued anything that attracted
He was a spontaneous, very charismatic type of personality,
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
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.