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Winchester Bay man receives Army Commendation Medal

By David Jaques

Winston, Or-For Sergeant William “Bill” Johnson his third deployment back in 2009-2010 with 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard, would be one that would change his life forever. With just ten days remaining in his last deployment, his second to Iraq,  Sgt. Johnson, an 11C Mortarman, was on an escort convoy riding in the back of an MRAP when and IED exploded alongside the vehicle sending a violent shockwave through the rig.

The vehicle was still operable so they continued to the nearest city to the North about a half hour drive away. Johnson was racked with pain having suffered a traumatic brain injury and a compressed spinal fracture. He said it was pretty much just adrenaline that kept him going to finish their convoy mission.

When he got back to home base the next day he went on sick call and was given pain meds which he said enabled him to finish his tour before shipping home.

The next several years were pure hell fighting to get medical attention and get qualified for disability. Sgt. Johnson said that Fort Lewis doesn’t think much of the Guard, “it was a real fight” trying to get help.

He was shipped out to Madigan Army Hospital where the doctor there told him he just needed to go home and sleep on a soft bed.  Upon his return to Roseburg, the local VA hospital ran tests determining that he had “some real problems”. They went to bat and got him into the Wounded Warrior Program, and his Guard Unit got him back to active duty status so he could get the medical help he needed.

This Memorial Day Weekend, Williams was presented the Army Commendation Medal, awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States other than General Officers who, while serving in any capacity with the Army after 6 December 1941, distinguishes himself by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service.

The award was presented at the ceremonial gardens at Wintergreen Nursery in Winston, Oregon  by Lt. Col. Verl Miller of the Oregon National Guard. Johnson was also qualified to receive the Purple Heart, but declined the medal in part because he said “You have to bleed for that one. To me the Purple Heart is for someone who paid a much bigger price than I did.”

Mike Winters said “the recognition was long overdue for this great man.” Johnson had been employed at Wintergreen Landscaping; “he was my go to guy for about ten years” said Winters.