Current Weather
The Spy FM

In Loving Memory Of A Wife, Daughter And Fallen Soldier

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
February 16, 2013

North Carolina National Guardsman Tracy Johnson is an Iraq War veteran and an Army widow.

She is also one of the first gay spouses to lose a partner at war since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

On Feb. 14, 2012, Tracy married her longtime partner, Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson. But eight months later, Donna was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan.

“That day, I had a bad feeling,” Tracy tells her mother-in-law, Sandra Johnson, during a visit to StoryCorps. “I immediately starting scouring the news websites, and it said that … three U.S. soldiers were killed in Khost, Afghanistan, and I knew, obviously, that’s where she was stationed.”

But she had to wait to find out if her fears were legitimate.

“I knew that any communication about Donna was going to come to you guys because even though we were married, I wasn’t considered her next of kin,” Tracy says.

Donna’s sister called and told Tracy that people from the military were at her mother’s house. Tracy grabbed a copy of their marriage certificate and went to the house.

“I said, ‘You know, I am her wife and I brought documentation,’ ” she recounts. The notification officer looked at it and asked for a copy.

Tracy then asked if she could be the military escort who brought her wife’s body home.

“He goes, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ Well, I know it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for your insistence,” she tells Sandra.

The idea of strangers bringing her daughter home was upsetting.

“I wanted her coming home to family,” she says.

Tracy was flown up to Dover, Del., to escort her wife home.

“Honestly, I can’t tell how great of an honor it is to escort a fallen hero home, and when that hero’s your wife, it means a lot more,” Tracy says.

Tracy was given all of Donna’s awards and personal documents to turn over to Donna’s mother.

“And one of the hardest things for me was our wedding ring. I actually slept with it that night. I put her ring on with mine because I thought it was going to be the last time I was going to get to see it.”

Sandra gave the ring back.

“I thought that was only natural,” she says, ” ’cause I don’t know how the Army or any military does it, I just know what’s fair is fair.”

Tracy thanked Sandra for allowing her to be named as a spouse in Donna’s obituary, for the private ceremony where she received a flag, for the copy of Donna’s awards, for a seat in the front pew at Donna’s funeral. For treating her like family.

“In reality, you married my daughter and that was it,” Sandra says.

But someone else in her shoes may have been shut out and not had anything, Tracy says.

“So I understand how blessed I am to be a part of your family,” she says.

“Well, I want you to know that I am very proud of you,” Sandra replies. “I consider you mine because Donna considered you hers. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center