After Smith, Johnson is the most common surname in America. The name has been in the news these past few days since Micah Johnson decided skin color warranted death in Dallas. I wasn’t alive when another Johnson lived. In fact, I may never have lived had this other black man with such a common last name not done a most uncommon thing.
Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson was one of 13 in a recon marine team led by my father, Lt. Clebe McClary, sent on mission to Hill 146 in enemy-controlled territory in North Vietnam. Just past midnight on March 3, 1968, the eerie jungle silence was shattered by screams from the men next to my daddy. A grenade had landed in their foxhole. Without hesitating, Johnson jumped on it and blew himself in half to save the lives of two white buddies and, ultimately, my father. The Bible tells us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13).
I cannot think of a day growing up that I didn’t hear my father talk about Ralph. Every time he speaks, Daddy carries a picture of his hero to hold up so all in the audience can see love is not self-seeking. It’s about sacrifice. Sometimes, the ultimate sacrifice.
Two Johnsons. Two completely different journeys. One blinded by color. Another colorblind.
May we all learn to love each other as Ralph did, like Jesus.