The Department of Defense announced on Wednesday, Oct. 3, that three soldiers â€“ including Sgt. Donna R. Johnson – were killed â€śsupporting Operation Enduring Freedomâ€ť in Afghanistan. The DOD reported that they â€śdied Oct.1, in Khost, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest while they were on dismounted patrol. The soldiers were assigned to the 514th Military Police Company, 60th Troop Command, Winterville, North Carolina.â€ť
But it wasnâ€™t until The American Military Partner Association posted a notice on their Facebook page that Sgt. Johnson was identified as a lesbian:
â€śIn memory of Army Staff Sgt. Donna R. Johnson who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our nation in a suicide bomber attack while on patrol in Afghanistan, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Staff Sgt Johnson is survived by her wife Tracy Dice.
In days to come, the American Military Partner Association will be sharing more of the story of Donna & Tracy and their commitment to each other and our nation. We ask for your continued thoughts, prayers, and privacy for Tracy and her family during this difficult time.â€ť
Sgt. Johnsonâ€™s body received a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday, Oct. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Adrian R. Rowan)
The Army Times via AP had more information, saying the attack was from a Taliban suicide bomber:
Three members of the North Carolina Army National Guard were among 14 people killed when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle packed with explosives into a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol in Afghanistan.
The remains of Sgt. Donna R. Johnson, 29, of Raeford, Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison, 23, of Browns Summit and Sgt. Thomas J. Butler IV, 25, of Leland, were flown into Dover Air Force Base Tuesday eveningâ€¦..
The bomber struck about 9 a.m., shortly after the troops got out of their vehicles to walk through a market area in Khost, located in the eastern part of the country.
The others killed included an Afghan translator working with the American troops, four local police officers and six civilians.
Three more American soldiers were wounded, according to a military spokesman. About 60 Afghan civilians were also injured.
A Taliban spokesman contacted Western media to claim responsibility shortly after the attack.
“We are still grieving for these soldiers, their families and their unit members still carrying on with their mission,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard. “They were the embodiment of citizen soldiers who put everything on hold to go in harm’s way for all of us. They will be remembered and sorely missed.”â€¦.
Monday’s attack followed more American casualties over the weekend that pushed the U.S. military’s death toll for the 11-year-war above 2,000.
The other two soldiers were identified as being survived by their wives and families; Johnson was identified thusly: Â â€śJohnson, 29, joined the guard in August 2006 and was deployed to Iraq in 2007.â€ť Another paper notedÂ that â€śJohnson’s awards and decorations include the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.â€ť
However, according to WRAL.com,Â there is an indication that Johnsonâ€™s spouse has been embraced by the family:
Rene Johnson said she and her baby sister were very close, and they last spoke on Sept.18.
â€śShe called me from Afghanistan to wish me a happy birthday,â€ť she said. â€śI didnâ€™t get a chance to tell her that [I love her] because Iâ€™m thinking sheâ€™s coming back.â€ť
Rene Johnson said her sister loved cars, motorcycles, Carolina Basketball and her partner of several years, who also serves in the military.
They had been together for years, before the militaryâ€™s â€śDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ť policy was repealed. Johnsonâ€™s family says she shouldnâ€™t be judged by her sexual orientation.
â€śShe is a soldier,â€ť Rene Johnson said. â€śShe went over there to fight, not because she was gay or lesbian.â€ť
WRAL.com reported that Johnson came from â€śa long, proud tradition of military service that dates back to the Revolutionary War.â€ť
In an interview with the local ABC affiliate, Johnsonâ€™s mother said her daughter will be buried with full military honors: