Tag Archives: Memorial Day

remembrance, Joey

31 May

Joey always wanted to be a soldier, a Green Beret. When we adopted him in his 14th year, we heard his desire to graduate high school; enlist as soon as possible and grow into a USA army officer.


But we talked him into trying college, Houghton College in Upstate New York, for a year. He met his wife, Rachel, there; marries at 20 and they separated at 21.
Called up to a formation exercise while station at Fort Bragg, NC, Joey drove in the 5 am deep darkness of 10 May 1996, took a turn on a curve road by a creek in a borrowed car, overturned into the creek’s waters and drowned.
He was almost 22.


He never fought in a conflict for his country; he owned a home in North Carolina that was two weeks from foreclosure; nor did he have many male army friends. He was truly alone.


When I met with Joey’s commanding officer, it was to pick up his body. I was in North Carolina with his mother Priscilla, my wife, and Rachel, the wife he was separated from. His commander told me, ‘Corporal Johansen was just young and angry. He would have grown out of it in time.’
Time, the one gift that might assist in Joey’s life, I could not give him. I gave him what I thought would heal, at least help in healing, of his physical hurts, his sexual abuse, his life addictions and pains.
A car; ( a prime condition Cutlass Supreme ) and a home; a leather jacket and a college education; a wedding and 3 adoring younger sisters ( one of them, Deirdra, named her second son ‘Johansen’ in Hero’s middle name ).

Hero Johansen.


When I reached the Funeral Home to retrieve Joey’s body to return to his NYC home, I was alone with his Commander. Priscilla and Rachel did not go with us as they were unsure what Joey’s body would look like.
They were hurting.

So was I. Unsure of the damages.


The Funeral Director greeted us. A woman of about 30, she lead us to Joey’s room. Before I entered, she paused and said ‘You can go in by yourself first if you like, to have a private, personal moment.’

I paused. The Commander nodded agreeing with her suggestion. Moving toward the closed door, I stopped and turned to the Director, and asked,

‘Pardon, but have have never met a woman Funeral Director before. How did you come to this profession?’

She smiled, ‘I know it is unusual. Three years ago by baby girl, Sara, died suddenly, unexpectedly. I could find no peace. Not in church or in counselling; not with friends or family. The worship at my church was beautiful but loud. I couldn’t sit still. I needed quiet. I started attending a Roman Catholic service, the Mass. I found the quiet helpful. Peaceful. And I felt God speaking to me one day in church,

“‘ Now you can help others to rest.’“


‘And so I opened this Funeral home. A home for the hurting….can I tell you something? I never do this, but I feel I need to tell you. When I was fixing your son’s body, I felt as though there was a lot of anger, hate, in him. But as I moved him, I felt his hurts, his angers, leaving him. And that he was at piece.’

I said thank you and went in alone. His body had not a scratch on him. He was knocked unconscious and drowned in the waters. He felt at rest. Peace.

Some soldiers fight in both outside and internal wars. But all struggle with the internal. All.

This Memorial Day I remember Joey. He struggled; he fought; he lost and won. But at the end, his very end, God gifted him peace, release. Healing. I had not adopted Joey; I could not give him peace. God did. Jesus did.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5: 11