A memorial service was held at the Alconbury chapel March 4, 2011 to celebrate the life of a 423rd Security Forces Defender who died in the line of duty.
More than 250 people from across the Tri-Base community came together to remember Airman 1st Class Christoffer Johnson, who died while on final security patrol in Southwest Asia. The 423rd Air Base Group commander, 423rd Security Forces Squadron commander, members from his squadron, and a close friend from high school all shared their memories of Airman Johnson during the service.
Col. Amy Hammond, 423rd ABG commander, said while she didn't know Airman Johnson as well as she would have liked to, the sheer size of the crowd spoke to what he meant as a person to the community. While she didn't get to know Airman Johnson that well before he deployed, she remembered two separate occasions where they spoke. Once before a visit by the 3rd Air Force commander the Monday after Thanksgiving, and another on Christmas Morning at 6:30 a.m., when she and her family delivered a warm breakfast to the Airmen on duty at the front gate, memories that she'll carry with her.
"It's these little pieces of time that bind us together," Colonel Hammond said. Airman Johnson's commander, Lt. Col. Leonard Rose, said he was swept away by how special Airman Johnson's family was when he attended Airman Johnson's funeral. He spoke of Airman Johnson's mother, who was behind him at the ceremony and her hands were shaking, and how afterwards she apologized to him. It was humbling to him because he was at her son's funeral, and she was apologizing to him.
"(The Johnson's) are truly an amazing family - an All-American family," Colonel Rose said.
Colonel Rose also brought up the many stories he heard about who Airman Johnson was as a person. Some funny and some like the time Airman Johnson was a new member of a church, where he went up to a lady he had never met and said, "I think I'm supposed to give this to you." She shared the story for the first time after Airman Johnson's funeral, telling how she had given the last of her money to the collection plate, and Airman Johnson had brought her money that she needed.
"Bottom line - Chris was a good person," Colonel Rose said. "He always wanted to do his best and help people. He died doing what he wanted and volunteered to do."
Airman 1st Class Ezekiel Greene, one of Airman Johnson's close friends in the squadron, recalled the time he needed a ride to the airport, but his transportation plans had fallen through. Airman Johnson immediately offered him a ride.
"I offered (Airman Johnson) payment for the fuel he spent to drive me there, but he refused to take any money," said Airman Greene. "It's just the kind of person he was - a kind and giving friend."
Another one of Airman Johnson's close friends from the squadron was Airman Nicholas Carter. Airman Carter said when he arrived Airman Johnson was one of the first to welcome him.
"He was always the person I went to when I needed to get something off my chest," Airman Carter said. "It prides me to have been a wingman, friend, and brother to (Airman Johnson)."
One of life's surprises happened one day for Airman Johnson while working the gate here, when a car pulled up to enter the installation. When Airman Johnson took the identifications cards from the occupants of the vehicle, he did a double take because he was holding the ID card of a close friend from home in Tennessee, John Coker. The two friends went all over London and across England together after their reunion at the gate.
"He was so excited to have someone from back home around," Mr. Coker said.
Mr. Coker shared how Airman Johnson would react in this situation, because "more than anything, Chris had an unwavering support in the Lord."