LTC Dennis M. Johnson, USA
Lieutenant Colonel Dennis M. Johnson, 48, an Adjutant General Corps Officer, served in a wide variety of both command and staff positions throughout his 25 years of military service. He was on his second tour at the Pentagon, with his most recent assignment being the Chief of Personnel Services working directly for the Deputy Chief of Staff-Personnel.
LTC Johnson was a native of Port Edwards, Wisconsin, born April 1, 1953. He graduated from John Edwards High School, Port Edwards, Wisconsin in 1971. He started his military training by enrolling in the ROTC program at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1975.
On December 20, 1975, LTC Johnson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Adjutant General Corps detailed to Armor. He reported to his first duty assignment on April 13, 1976 as a Platoon Leader at Fort Knox, Kentucky. During his four-year tour at Fort Knox he held several Platoon Leader positions, as well as an Assistant Adjutant, and later as Battalion Adjutant to 4/37 Army Battalion Headquarters Company.
In 1980 he furthered his military training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. He attended the Battalion S-1 course, Club Management Course and Adjutant Generals Advanced Course. Upon completion of these courses, he received his second assignment, an overseas tour in Mainz, Germany, as the Area Club Manager.
After leaving Germany in 1984, he attended Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida, where he was listed among Who’s Who Among Students and the Deans List of 1986. He graduated with honors from FIU with a Master’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
LTC Johnson’s next assignment took him to the “Old Frontier,” Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he served as the Installation Club Manager, and later as the Chief of Personnel for Headquarters Company. In August 1988 he relocated to Fort Richardson, Alaska to take over the Command for 203rd Personnel Service Company.
After leaving Alaska, he returned to the “lower 48” attending the Command and General Staff College as a staff leader at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After his year in Kansas, he received his first assignment to the Pentagon in 1991 as a Program Budget Officer and, later, as the Executive Officer to the Director of Operations and Support for the Army Budget Office.
It was now time for another overseas tour, a dream requested by his parents, to receive an assignment to Hawaii. So in 1994, his next set of orders took him to Wheeler Army Air Force Base on Oahu, Hawaii as the Chief Resource Management Officer for the Defense Information Systems Agency, Pacific where he soon became known as “Gramps.” Gramps’ final set of orders brought him back to the “Mainland” in 1998. He received his assignment to ATEC/OPTEC in the Operational Test and Evaluation Command in Alexandria, Virginia as the Deputy Chief of Staff-Personnel. In May of 2000 Dennis accepted what was to become his last assignment as the Chief of Personnel Services for the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Pentagon.
LTC Johnson was a loyal and dedicated soldier. He was a person of quiet demeanor, who earned the honor, respect and dignity of all those he encountered. Co-workers stated that LTC Johnson treated everyone in his department at the Pentagon like a member of his extended family, making it a point to talk with everyone when he walked past, and made sure they knew they could come to him no matter what.
Family time was the most important thing in the Johnson household. He met his wife, Joyce Zastrow, at college in 1973. Joyce was 18 and he was 19, just about to turn 20. They were married on April 21, 1979. They have two wonderful children, Dawn Marie, age 20, and Cassandra Lee, age 16. Dennis loved gardening, yard work and spending time outdoors. In the last three years, they would spend many of their weekends going to Burke Lake Park for a run or an enjoyable walk. When they lived in Europe they would do a Volksmarch every weekend, coaxing Dawn on, even at the small age of two. Yearly vacations were a family tradition. However, this last year, for the first time, they decided not to go so they could work on the first home they had just moved into two months before.
When his wife, Joyce, was asked to describe words that came to mind when she thought of her husband she stated, “quiet, gentle, honest, fun loving and extremely dedicated to his job.” Even after being married 22 years, Joyce stated she could never stay mad a him very long; he would always manage to make her laugh. He just had that way to make you smile even when you didn’t want to give in. He hated to say sorry, just like the Fonz.
On the morning of September 11, Joyce and Dennis kissed each other goodbye and she waved to him from the front door and then the kitchen window (as was their morning ritual), never realizing she would never see that wonderful twinkle in his eyes again. Later that morning, at school, she watched in shock as the plane crashed into the Towers, trying to stay focused on her duties. And then they showed smoke coming from near the Pentagon. News reporters stating they thought a plane had hit the Pentagon. She waited for her daughter Cassie to come to the Career Center and they just hugged each other. Hearing no news from her husband she knew he must surely be helping someone; it was his job to take care of people. Minutes passed into long hours… still no word. Several times that day she received calls asking if Dennis had called or come home. About eleven o’clock Tuesday night she was given two different numbers to call: one if he returned, and a different number if he didn’t. Unfortunately, he never returned. As Den always told his kids when things didn’t go the way they wanted them to, “Life isn’t fair.”
His wife, Joyce, and his two children, Dawn and Cassie, survive LTC Johnson. His parents, Bob and Elva Johnson, and his three younger siblings, Diane Czlapinski, Richard Johnson and Gail Lindner, also survive him.
LTC Johnson’s awards and decorations include: Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (3rd award), Joint Meritorious Unit Award (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Superior Unit Award, and the Army Staff Badge.
On September 29, 2001 LTC Johnson received full military honors with interment at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.