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Promises Kept - Diana Herbert and Rayshawn Johnson - Americans You Should Know

Diana Herbert grew up in the New York Foster Care System with her two brothers, Rayshawn and Michael Johnson. Rayshawn, the eldest of the children, enlisted in the US Army as a Combat Engineer. Rayshawn had found a new family - the military. Here's a few excerpts from stories about him:

    Her brother had spoken with her about how the Army had changed his life and how it could change hers. It would be a change that would take her from the foster family system in New York that she, Johnson, and their younger brother, Michael Johnson, had known for years.
    "When he returned to the neighborhood, he refused to come out of his greens," his aunt, Rosalyn Winter, told mourners at his funeral. "He wanted everyone to know this was a foster child who became a member of another family. The U.S. Army made a man of him.’’
    The military changed Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson, on the inside and on the outside.

    “He used to dress like he was born on the street, but when he came back, he was in his uniform,” said his brother, Michael Johnson, 16. “He called once at the airport and he said the respect he got from people made him feel so good,” his foster mother, Deborah Wynter, recalled. “He said they were coming up to him and saying ‘God bless you,’ ‘Good luck,’ ‘We’re proud of you.’”

Rayshawn asked his sister and brother, when they were old enough, to serve their country. They promised that they would...


Army Specialist Rayshawn Johnson was killed by an IED in Tikrit, Iraq, on November 3rd, 2003.

Services Held For Third Brooklyn Soldier Killed In Iraq
By Neil S. Friedman

Rayshawn Johnson, a 20-year-old soldier from Brooklyn who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine in Iraq earlier this month, was buried last Fri-day with military honors and remembered as a proud young man who loved his uniform and country.

Pfc. Johnson was eulogized at a two-hour service attended by his biological mother, the adoptive mother who raised him and scores of relatives, friends and public officials.

"I never thought it would be like this,’’ said Patty Johnson, the soldier’s biological mother. "It makes me so proud that people love him. I always wanted him to be a good person at heart, and actually it came true for me."

Johnson had been in the Army for one year and had been assigned to the 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, in Fort Hood, Texas before his unit was shipped to Iraq to build bridges. He was killed on November 3 when his Humvee hit a landmine near Tikrit.

At his funeral at the Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, Deborah Winter, who adopted Johnson when he was 7 and raised him along with eight other children, wept as Ma-jor Gen. Ronald Johnson pinned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star on her lapel...

His sister, Diana Herbert, recently completed training as Air Force Refueling Specialist. The youngest, Michael Johnson, is enlisting in the Marines. They are following through on their promises to Rayshawn.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Powell
Airman Makes Good on Promise
By John Ingle / 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Aug. 5, 2004 — Airman Diana Herbert's reason for serving in the Air Force is simple. She made a promise.

She did not seek or want the attention she is getting, but that does not change the enormity of her promise to her brother, Army Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson.

Herbert, 18, fulfilled her pledge July 28 when she graduated from the aircraft fuels systems apprentice course here.

Johnson was not at the graduation ceremony. He was killed Nov. 3 in Tikrit, Iraq, when his Humvee hit a land mine. He was a combat engineer in the 299th Engineering Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.

"This was to fulfill a promise to my brother," she said.

Herbert said she had visited with a recruiter in Brooklyn, N.Y., weeks before her brother's death. She had even taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and was waiting to learn when she would enter.

Her brother had spoken with her about how the Army had changed his life and how it could change hers. It would be a change that would take her from the foster family system in New York that she, Johnson, and their younger brother, Michael Johnson, had known for years.

She was returning from a movie when she saw Michael outside their home, crying.

"He never cries," she said, sensing something was not right.

That's when she heard about her brother's death.

"My first reaction was 'it's not true. Maybe it was someone else,'" she said. "He always protected me. I always relied on him."

Herbert said the news of her brother's death did not really hit home until about a week afterward when she and Michael received a letter from him.

"When my letter came ... my younger brother thought he was alive," she said.

Herbert struggled through the first weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, particularly when Taps would play. Her thoughts would immediately go to the day her family buried her brother.

As the days passed and she continued on to technical training here, she looked to her brother for strength and encouragement. "Anytime I feel I can't do anything, I think about him," she said. "It reminds me why I'm here, and makes me want to try harder."

The airman's next assignment is at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where she will work on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and C-130 Hercules.

There could be a sequel to this story of triumph over tragedy. Younger brother, Michael, is planning to join the Marines; another testament to the impact one person, one soldier, can have on someone else.

Diana and Michael, from your fellow brothers and sisters, Welcome to the family!

[read about other heroes that you should know - here!]