On Memorial Day, Revisiting Stories Of The Fallen In Afghanistan

At Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama honored the sacrifices of those who died while serving in the military. We remember the stories of some of those who died in America's longest war.

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At Arlington National Cemetery on this memorial day President Obama paid tribute to the country's war dead. The President had just returned from a weekend visit to Afghanistan.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For more than 12 years men and women like those I met with, have borne the burden of our nation's security. Now because of their profound sacrifice because the progress that they have made, or in a pivotal moment. Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end.

BLOCK: During the course of that war we have brought you the stories of some of the men and women who have died in that conflict. In 2011 we learned that Marine Sergeant Joe Garrison was killed by a roadside bomb. Garrison grew up near Pittsburgh, he was featured in a NPR story two years before his death. In that report he explained how he made sure Marines under his command avoided treating all Afghans as potential threats.


SERGEANT JOE GARRISON: I just tell them you know, everybody here is not bad. You know, you've got the people that want us here that are good and you've got the Taliban here that don't obviously want us here. And like I tell them, as long as you do your job and you do what your supposed to do and what's right we won't have a problem with anything.

BLOCK: The men who served with Joe Garrison recalled him as one hell of a leader. A five foot three Marine whom they said they would follow anywhere. Army staff Sergeant Donna Johnson of Raeford, N.C. was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. Just eight months after she had married her longtime partner. Tracy Johnson told NPR the following year that even before she found out Donna had become the victim of a suicide bomber she sensed that tragedy had struck.


ARMY STAFF SERGEANT DONNA JOHNSON: I had a bad feeling. I immediately started scouring the news websites. And it said that there were 3 US soldiers killed in Khost, Afghanistan. And I knew, obviously that's where she was stationed.

BLOCK: At first the military didn't recognize Tracy Johnson as next of kin and only through the assistance of her mother-in-law Donna's mother, was she allowed to accompany the body of her spouse home. And it was eight years ago that we heard another story of an Afghanistan war death. Army medic Tom Stone was on his third combat tour when he was killed during a firefight. At 52 Stone was a seasoned veteran from Tunbridge, Vt. We learned about him from his partner Rose Loving.


ROSE LOVING: For Tom there was always time to sit down and talk or share or do something for someone. He never had an agenda that was too busy to fit people in.

BLOCK: Memories of Tom Stone, Donna Johnson and Joe Garrison this Memorial Day. Three of the more than 2000 US military fatalities from the war in Afghanistan.

BLOCK: This is NPR News.

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