Mission accomplished: Woman receives proof of husband’s military service

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Verna Johnson finally has the information she needs to ensure that her husband, Jesse Johnson, will receive a military burial when the time comes.

On Wednesday, Call 12 for Action reported on Johnson’s desperate search for documents. Within 24 hours of the report airing, Johnson received a document proving her husband’s military service.

“I really wanted to cry because it was a document written in my husband’s handwriting,” Johnson said.

The newly uncovered document from the Korean Veterans’ Bonus Board is stamped March 21, 1958.

“It was like he was giving me the information,” Johnson added. “All along we’ve been going to all these agencies and doors slamming in our face and then I get something in his handwriting with the information that we needed. I’m so grateful to the man who contacted you, who reached out to you with it.”

According to a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Office of Veterans Affairs, the document was accessed in the Rhode Island National Guard’s archives.

Jesse Johnson is 80 years old. He never really spoke about his service in the Air Force, according to Verna, and his records were likely lost in a fire that tore through the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri in 1973. An estimated 16 to 18 million records were destroyed, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now, in the face of Alzheimer’s Disease, Johnson is not able to provide any information about his service.

“With his disease, I don’t know what we’re facing,” Johnson said. “Hopefully this is going to get us where we originally wanted to be; To put him in a position to be entitled to his military burial.”

“I think we have the information now that we need to get that, so I can breathe a little bit,” Johnson added.

Call 12 for Action was also able to reunite Johnson with a photo of her husband in uniform. In 1952, Jesse Johnson signed the back of the photo. Sixty-five years later, the woman who had it saw the  report dusted off the photo and gave Verna a glimpse of her husband’s honor.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.