Raise your Beer, Toast a Hero: Joe Johnson

As any parent knows, children have an uncanny ability to simultaneously shock and amaze. Innocent and well-intentioned as they may be, parents certainly come to appreciate their children’s view of the world, even if (and when) that appreciation requires a very gracious sense of humor.

Parents also appreciate that moment when they can catch a glimpse of their children’s future. Their actions, even if mildly misguided, serve as wonderful previews of what is to come in their child's life. 

For Teri Johnson, she knew the exact moment her son was destined to be a problem solver. Even if Joe's problem solving technique was a bit unconventional at times, Teri couldn't help but appreciate her son's honesty and desire to help.

Like many mothers of young boys, Teri had an established daily routine of picking up after her son. As she was making her rounds and fixing up Joe’s loft-style bed, she noticed something odd on the ceiling.


Teri brought Joe in. “Joe, you can’t put boogers on the ceiling,” she said.

“Why not, Mom?” young Joe rightly asked.

Teri, caught off guard by the blunt innocence of the question replied, “because, uh…because they will fall on people’s heads, Joe.” And that was the end of it, so Teri thought.

No less than thirty minutes later, young Joe yelled out, “Mom, come here!”

“Look, Mom! I taped them. Now they won’t fall on anybody!”

Joe was beaming with pride and Teri was awestruck. Indeed, the ceiling had been carefully taped and a young boy’s “graffiti” was secured.

Joe solved the problem indeed.

An older version of Joseph Dennis Johnson – no surprise to his mother – would eventually make his mark as an engineer in the Army, helping do his part to solve the types of problems most people would run away from. More than that, Joe always felt compelled to go the extra mile and do things a little differently than most.

Anyone willing to sign up for an experimental anthrax shot?

“I got it,” Joe Johnson would say.

Anyone willing to learn how to jump out of planes….with chainsaws?

“Sounds like fun,” Joe Johnson thought.

Anyone willing to help teach fellow Afghan soldiers how to disarm IEDs?

“Send me in,” Joe Johnson would reply.

For everything that he did, for every mission he volunteered for, Joe Johnson always made a lasting impression.

Would anyone have been surprised then when Joe jumped at the chance to take on a difficult and dangerous mission to help protect others?

Absolutely not.

Joe Johnson, as always, was ready.

“Joe did everything he could to heroically protect the lives of his fellow platoon on June 16th,” says Captain Dan Quinn. “He knew he was volunteering for a very difficult mission, but he pushed forward without any hesitation.”

“He is a true hero and my team will never forget him.”

Joe Johnson gave his life while serving on a route clearance and counter-IED team on June 16th, 2010 in North Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Though gone, in true Joe Johnson fashion, he is still making a difference to this day.

In the wake of their loss, Joe’s family created a 501(c)(3) foundation that bears his name. A Hero’s Legacy: The Joe Johnson Foundation is a remarkable organization that focuses on providing scholarships to the children of fallen or wounded service members. 

Dog Tag Brewing Foundation is honored and humbled to take part in celebrating Joe’s life with a Legacy Grant to the Joe Johnson Foundation. 

For those that knew him, Joe was a remarkable and unique guy. He was equal parts fun loving and mischievous. Joe, after all, was the type of a guy that somehow managed to find a way to have his couch shipped from home to his barracks in Afghanistan.

Joe solved problems.

Joe Johnson, cliché as it might sound, was also the type of guy that would happily give the shirt off of his back. Odds would be, however, that if he did give you his shirt, it would be in his favorite color: plaid.

“Yes, plaid was his favorite color,” says Teri. “That is Joe. That is the type of guy he was.”  
“Joe was just a guy, an ordinary guy. A little boy that had grown into a man,” says Teri.

“An ordinary man who became extraordinary.”

On this day, we raise a toast to you, Joe Johnson.

An ordinary man he may be, but one that was capable of extraordinary things when asked.

Thank you for everything, Joe. Here’s to you!



Dog Tag Brewing Foundation is a combat Veteran-run nonprofit that partners with Gold Star Families to celebrate the lives of our nation's Fallen Warriors.

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