|Recent Graduate Saves Shipmate's Life|
|ENS Daniel Johnson's Selfless Actions Put His Own Life in Jeopardy
Compiled By David Fish
HICKORY-- The events of August 23rd have caused a recent UNC NROTC graduate to be hailed as a hero by his shipmates, the Navy and by the residents of his Hickory, NC hometown. On that day Ensign Daniel Johnson, '98 rescued another sailor from certain death at the cost of his own limbs.
As his ship, the USS Blue Ridge, was departing Pusan harbor in South Korea, Johnson's men were busy working with the large, strong cables connecting the ship to the tugboat that pulls it out of port. But the tug started backing down too quickly, and pulled the cable out too fast. Most of his men were able to jump clear of the rapidly moving cable, but one became entangled. When he saw a shipmate about to be dragged to his death by the cable, his instinct told him to preserve another's life and consider the costs later.
Johnson lunged after the sailor, Seaman Steve Wright of Arkansas. He managed to free Wright, but in the process his feet became entangled in the cable and were cut off above the ankles. Johnson also suffered the loss of a finger. Wright lost a foot and four fingers.
Since that time Johnson has been in an Army hospital in Seoul and will be transferred back to the United States to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for specialized care and rehabilitative therapy. While he was in the hospital, he received his Surface Warfare Officer's designation in a presentation by his Commanding Officer.
In a phone interview with The Charlotte Observer, Johnson cracked a few jokes and spoke optimistically about his recovery. "I'm actually in pretty good spirits," he said. "I'm pretty confident I'll bounce back. I'll be back on my new feet."
In Hickory, his parents, Wallace and Sallie Johnson's sadness has been consoled by the realization that their son was hurt helping another person.
"We're just so proud of him," Sallie Johnson said. "There just aren't a lot of heroes around. And it's not just his mom saying that."
"We all think that Daniel is a hero," the ship's chaplain, John Wahlrabe, wrote Johnson's parents in an e-mail.
ENS Daniel Johnson, USN
UNC Class of '98
Photo courtesy of Sandy Schaeffer, Navy Times
Wahlrabe also forwarded the Johnson's this e-mail, written by a member of Daniel's division:
"Our division just would like to let you know that Mr. Johnson took very courageous acts today to save (Seaman) Wright. He put his life on the line to help this young man. His sacrifice was truly heroic and we are in awe as to how he selflessly sacrificed so much to help him."
In an interview, Johnson said he didn't consider what he did to be heroism. Instead he said it was just his job. His parent say that's just like him to say that.
Johnson further joked, "I don't think that the Olympics are in my future. I'll have to use my mind rather than my body."
Daniel told the Hickory Daily Record that he is optimistic about the future. The man who loves the outdoors is determined to hike again.
"He said the other day, "One of my goals is to hike again," and he will," Wallace Johnson said of his son's courage and determination.
Although his career in the Navy may be over, his parents said he plans to take what he learned in the Navy and apply it to something new - perhaps pediatric medicine or teaching.
In the meantime, his parents just want him back.
"We're looking forward to having him home," his mother said.
This article was based on articles in the Hickory Daily Record, the Navy Times and The Charlotte Observer. The Alumni Association thanks these publications for permission to use statements or photos from their articles.
Back to Alumni Focus Main | Back to Home