United States Coast Guard: Johnny Johnson Q & A
Yea we know it’s not Memorial Day any more but there’s no reason why we can’t celebrate our service members every day. Johnny Johnson, a combat veteran and United States Coast Guard, finds it difficult to call serving his country a job. For Johnson this is just part of being an American and fighting for your freedom. And while he does take his position as a U.S. Service Member seriously, he always makes time to unwind and decorate himself with his own types of medals – tattoos.
Inked Magazine: Tell us about being a combat veteran.
Johnny Johnson: Under the Department of Defense I’m classified as a combat veteran. To me it’s such a broad term that is exclusive to those who have protected our country and defended our freedoms in a war zone. Fewer and fewer people volunteer for the call of duty. I am proud to be the small percentage of our population who has served in wartime.
Inked: When most people are out partying and using the holiday as an excuse for a good time, I’m sure Memorial Day holds a slightly different meaning for you.
Johnson: I hope people just take a second or two to recognize a service member’s sacrifice, and their families’ sacrifices, and how this allows us to go about our everyday activities. I hope they know why they have the freedom they do and the ability to live in the land of the free. As long as they are having fun with family, friends, or doing what they love I see the day being justified in honor of those who have sacrificed for our country and freedoms. I love the quote, “The nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Nowhere else in this world do you see the freedom we have.
Inked: And you’re actively serving as a U.S. Coast Guard?
Johnson: I’m part of a special deployable operations group ready to rapidly deploy and execute any mission worldwide within 96 hours and establish operations within 24 hours to provide waterborne and land-based protection for high value assets. I’m in active reserves, which allows me to serve part-time and pursue other interests. I just graduated from Sacramento State University and also hold another part-time job. I get to do things and manage equipment at an age no one would ever imagine as a civilian.
Inked: Why did you decide to begin a career in the services and then continue that career as a U.S. Coast Guard?
Johnson: My influence came from my father who served in the U.S. Navy. I always imagined myself in the military as a child, recalling the days of G.I. Joes, and playing make-believe with my buddies, pretending we were soldiers. I know it sounds redundant, but It’s a honor to serve our country, and be part of a cause greater than yourself.
Inked: I’m sure you have seen it all and a lot of it wasn’t very pretty… can you tell us about your worst experience and how it affected you.
Johnson: Surprisingly, nothing about the war or missions tops my list. My worst experience came from back home…I decided to call home to catch up with some friends before heading out on watch (patrol), only to find out I lost my best friend who always checked up on me to see if I was okay. I wasn’t able to be home with friends and family, and missed his funeral. I never gave him the flag I flew for him or told him I wanted him to be my best man on the day I find my wife. I learned to always speak my mind and give my love every minute of the day. Don’t wait till tomorrow, and live for today. Separation from the ones you love is the hardest experience.
Inked: Do your tattoos reflect your time in service?
Johnson: My tattoos are symbolic to my military service and values. I have an anchor on my right inner bicep with my core values (family, country, and honor). A pin up girl on my chest to always have “my girl” with me, I spend a lot of time with guys with no girls in sight. I have a heart on my chest with a silhouette of myself and father with a sunset at Waimea Bay in Hawaii. The words “Come Home Soon, Love Mom” surround the heart in a banner, because I’m always away from home. My dragon has no meaning other then a simple fascination I had with dragons after my dad brought me a dragon blanket from Japan (that I still have 23 years later). My right arm has Polynesian and Hawaiian symbols to represent my childhood in Hawaii.
Inked: When you are not protecting our country, what ARE you doing?
Johnson: Whatever makes me happy! I compete in bodybuilding shows with the help of my pro trainer IFBB Physique Pro Trish Wood and her husband Mike. I also enjoy many physical activities such as Mountain biking, wakeboarding, snowboarding, hiking, traveling, going to the movies, spending time with family and taking naps.
Inked: Do you see this as a life-long career choice and if not why? Where do you see yourself if not serving this country?
Johnson: I will do my 20 years in the reserves and also find a career in law enforcement. It’s always been my idea to help others globally, and locally. Everything I do is for my family, country and to “honor thyself”.
I took an oath in 2008 to part be part of the finest military the world has ever known. It’s an honor to serve our country and defend our freedoms for my family, friends, and fellow Americans. I commit myself until the day I die to uphold the values and freedoms so many American servicemen/women have sacrificed for.