You may recall my Thanksgiving column about Army Spc. John Austin Johnson, the injured Iraq war veteran who lost his three children in a November horrible car accident on their way to visit him in recuperation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The El Paso Times has a follow-up:
A former Fort Bliss soldier and his wife on Thursday opened the bright red door to a new home and what they hope will be a fresh start after a tragic car accident claimed the lives of their three children.
“It’s just more than I could have ever imagined,” Lisa Johnson said, smiling, as she and her husband, Army Spc. John Austin Johnson, toured the couple’s first home. With the help of Operation Homefront, the PGA Tour and KB Homes, the Johnsons purchased the 2,400-square-foot home and moved from Fort Bliss to a small San Antonio suburb.
“For them, this is really more than they’ve ever had in their lives,” said Amy Palmer, a co-founder of Operation Homefront, which helps wounded warriors returning from battle…Injuries from Austin Johnson’s two tours and the five explosions left the family in debt and led to bankruptcy, she said.
Operation Homefront raised $140,000 to help the Johnsons pay off their debt, complete their bankruptcy proceedings, buy a car, finance their home and move them from El Paso to San Antonio. The PGA tour raised $78,000, while KB Homes furnished the home.
Contributions paid for about half the cost of the $154,000 home. With the organization’s help, the couple secured an affordable $600 monthly mortgage payment for the remainder, Palmer said.
The Johnsons have more help, too, from generous donors in the El Paso area who contributed to an account that FirstLight Federal Credit Union established for the family.
The account closed Thursday with more than $86,000 in donations that came in over about two months, said Charles Morris, the credit union’s vice president of marketing.
“It could never fill the void or make up for the emotional damages and the trauma this couple has gone through, but it certainly will help,” Morris said.
Along with the financial generosity from El Pasoans, the Johnsons’ new home will have a long-lived reminder of their two years at Fort Bliss. Travis Elementary School, which Ashley and Tyler attended, dedicated an evergreen tree to the children and sent it to the Johnsons.