H-SANTA MARIA

Dec 7, 2010 10:20 PM by Ariel Wesler

Memorial plaque dedicated to fallen Vandenberg airman

A memorial plaque was dedicated Tuesday morning to remember the life of 23-year-old Dan Johnson.

The senior airman from Vandenberg was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on October 5th. He was serving his second tour of duty as part of the Air Force bomb squad.

Each year, on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Santa Maria community gathers at the Freedom Monument Veteran's Memorial to remember the fallen. This year, a new name was etched into memory--23 year old Senior Airman Dan Johnson.

"He will join 96 other veterans who have given the last full measure of devotion for their country," said Dave Cross who handles military affairs for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The memorial lists all of the Santa Maria Valley veterans killed in the line of duty. Johnson was part of Vandenberg's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit.

"He died doing a job he enjoyed, serving a country he loved, so that others may live in peace and freedom," said Colonel Richard Boltz, Commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg.

Johnson grew up in the midwest but met his wife Kristen Harlow while stationed at Vandenberg. They got married four months before he was killed. She works at the Abel Maldonado Youth Center, the site of the memorial.

"It's very important to me and special to me that my city remembers him the way I did. Being at work is perfect. I can eat lunch here everyday. That's where you'll find me," Kristen said.

"This need to remember is why family and friends will come here long after today's dedication ceremony is over," said Bob Hatch, President and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

A tribute to those who have passed on and permanent reminder for anyone passing by.

Sam Blakeslee's office presented Kristen Harlow Johnson with a resolution in honor of her husband's sacrifice. Family and friends say the location of his plaque is fitting because he was also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The Freedom Monument Veteran's Memorial was dedicated on December 7, 2001. It's maintained by the Recreation and Parks Department.

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