Santa Rosa Beach's Maureen Johnson has been trying to preserve her deceased husband's impressive military career for well over a year.
After Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast in 2004, Verlon Johnson lost all of his medals, military service pictures, and two books in which he was remembered as a war hero. Months before he was laid to rest in October 2012, the U.S. government replaced the lost medals.
In December, Johnson was a victim of burglary. While at church, her jewelry and some of her husband's recovered medals were stolen. While living in Saudi Arabia, Johnson had acquired a collection of 22-carat jewels as well as a kilo of silver, which were part of the stolen items. The Walton County Sheriff's Office is still on the case, Johnson said.
To read more about the burglary, click here
It was a big surprise, then, when Johnson found some of her husband's history while cleaning. She was preparing to sell her Honda, and while cleaning out the vehicle she came across her husband's Special Forces Green Beret along with photographs. She doesn't know how long they had been hiding there.
The hat has not faired well in the Florida heat, but the medals pinned to the hat are intact.
"It's a little bit of solace," Johnson said. "I'm thankful I found some of his medals."
Verlon Johnson joined the U.S. Army at the age of 16 in 1952, and in Vietnam and Korea before retiring in 1974. During his nearly 22-year career in the U.S. Special Forces as a Green Beret, he became a highly decorated combat parachutist, with two purple hearts, a bronze star, and eight other medals of valor in his career with the 101st Airborne. He passed away last October at the age of 76 after years of suffering from complications of a stroke.
To read more about Verlon Johnson, click here
The 7th Special Forces will hold a ceremony, with a special presentation of the found medals to Johnson, 9 a.m., May 15 in Crestview. Friends of Johnson have volunteered to drive her there and back.
"I think it's wonderful that they're going to do this, it's very empowering," Johnson said. "I think he [Verlon] would be very proud."