Soulclap to Philip Barron for pointing us to a profile of LaVena provided by her father, Dr. John H. Johnson. Dr. Johnson provides a little more background on the kind of person she was as a daughter, a student, and a soldier.
PROFILE OF AN UNFORGETABLE, YOUNG BLACK WOMAN
On July 27, 1985, a very special little girl was born. Her name was LaVena Lynn Johnson. She was the fourth child born into the closely knit Johnson family, but the first of two girls. She was a good, quiet baby, very friendly and seemed to enjoy her family time. She spent most of her playing time listening to and playing with her three older brothers and her father. Other than family time, her next favorite past time was swinging in her swing while she watched television of wanted to take her afternoon nap. The thing her parents remember was how she swung so much she wore out her swing. But that didn’t mater to her, because her mother and father got a chuckle out of watching her take one hand and swing the swing back and forth in lieu of her being fast asleep.
As a four month old baby, she received her first honors when she was named Baby of the Year at Walnut Park Church, where the Johnson family worshiped. When she was four years old, she started to sing in the church choir. When there were holiday programs at church such as Christmas and Easter, she would practice her part every night until she memorized every word. Therefore she would always shire as one of the most prepared students by making her program speeches without mistakes.
At an early age she started to show a cooperate and leadership spirit in the family by insisting that the entire family got up early enough on Sunday to attend Sunday School. Early every Sunday morning, she would get up early, then made sure that every family member was awake and up with plenty of time to get ready and attend church early. She immediately showed her leadership by taking the role of big sister seriously. Everywhere the family went, she would volunteered to take charge of her baby sister, who was two years her junior, by leading her every where they went by the hand. As a result of that she
When she was five years old, she started to attend Keeven Elementary School. The moment she started school, she showed signs of being a good student. When she was in the first grade, she made the honor role and did so the rest of her time at Keeven. When she was in the fourth grade, she started to practice playing the violin. She practiced every night because she always wanted to be good at everything she did. By the time she reached the eight grade, she had played in several school concerts. When she was in the firth grade, her Science project won honors all the way to the State level. She also started to run track. She didn’t join to compete, she just like to run to stay in shape She took an active part in a number of school activities to include helping to host a number of after school ones.
At home her interests and holiday spirit continued well into her adulthood. Immediately after the Thanks Giving holiday, she would insist to her father that he, she and her sister put up and decorate the Christmas tree, while her mother made out the gilt tags. She and her sister would then decorate the entire house to include the fireplace, the stairwell and their rooms. On the mornings of her parents Wedding Anniversaries, Christmas and Thanks Giving, she and her sister would cook breakfast for their parents and sat a festive table to include napkins, hot chocolate and candles. Once her sister had learned to play the flute, it became a family tradition for the two of them to serenade their parents with an approriate song as their parents ate. she playing the violin while her sister played her flute. To further show her willing and love she had for her family, she started another family tradition by getting up early every Saturday morning cooking a huge breakfast for the entire Johnson family and her Aunt.
LaVena seemed to have a love for everything and everyone she came in contact with. When she was in the fifth grade she seemed to enjoy taking a role in political issues. Since she loved animals, and didn’t like hearing about them being killed, she heard of and joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA. She became a dues paying member at the age of 11 years old.
To further know her commitment to the cause, she also became a member of Vegetarian Economy and Green Agriculture, or VEGA, which advocate alternative means of meat other than farm animals. To further support the cause, she became a Vegetarian and stayed that way all her young life.
From there she attended Hazelwood Junior High School. During her two years, she was evolved in a number school activities. They included receiving the DARE certificate of Achievement Award, Student Volunteer Group Award, and Student Citizenship club member, which earned her certificate recognition from Congressman William Lacy Clay. There she also obtained the reputation of being a dependable student, which got her a number of praise in the form of certificates from most of her teachers. By that time, she had learned to play the violin real well and participated in a number of school junior high concerts. In lieu of being well liked by students and teacher, she was on the honor role both years there and was named to The Hawks Sigma Cum Laude club.
By the time LaVena attended high school, she had a good reputation among students of being friendly and having only good things to say about everybody she knew. People who knew her knew she came from a real close family because all of her siblings attended the same high school. She always seen attending high school sporting events with her father and all the other school activities with her mother, father and younger sister. She had also matured to the point of knowing what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to attend college, and prepared herself by being on the honor role the entire time she was in high school. She also sat three major goals for her life.
- To attend college and major in Performing Arts, to become a Movie Producer. He father has written several Friction novels and her goal was to one day see to it that his books are made into movies. She even talked about being behind the camera when that happened.
- Her oldest brother, John, has written over 30 songs. Her brother Jermaine is attempting to from a music company. She and her younger sister, LaKesha, had talked about them graduating from college then forming a family music and movie company to showcase the talents of thier family to the entire world.
- LaVena was a pure patriot and sincerely wanted to make a difference in the world, so she started by participating in a number of community activities. She was recognized for being involved in a number of community service projects, such as:
- Feeding the hungry during a number of church holiday “Feed the Needy” programs.
- Run/Walk for Cancer Research.
- Collected can goods for the homeless and the Boy Scouts.
- Contributed to the environment: Recycling paper and plastics.
- Donated clothing and money for the privileged people.
- Donated blood to the Red Cross.
To accomplish her goals, she realized she would most likely have to attend college on the West Coast. Since she realized her parent would have to pay for she and her sister to attend college at the same time, and since she wanted to go to another state, she made a decision that was to change her and her family’s life for ever. Instead of going to college like she had talking about all her life, she decided to forgo college and enter into the US. Army, in lieu of her family’s objection to the idea. However she convinced them that she would be doing something good for her country while traveling and earning her own money for college. The one thing her family knew about her and that she was known was accomplishing what she sat out to do. So, they apprehensively supported her decision to enter into the Army.
In May of 2004, she graduated from Hazelwood Senior High school a honor role student, with only two Bs and the rest all As her senior year. In September instead of enrolling in college, she enlisted into the US Army. She attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina for eight weeks. At her Graduation exercise, her parents were told by her Drill Sergeants they could tell she was raised in a disciplined home because she was mentally tough she was often used a role model to both female and male soldiers.
In May of 2005. LaVena was assigned to the 129 Corp Support Battalion and deployed to service a tour in Balad Iraq. On July 19, 2005, eight weeks after being deployed to Iraq, she was mysteriously murdered at the age of 19, eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier and the first Black woman soldier to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. To this date, the cause of her death is still being questioned. News and the questions surrounding the cause of her death reached The United Kingdom in June of 2006. In lieu of it being over two and a half years since her death, her story is still heart felt by Missourians and other Americans all over this country, and is still news worthy and is now just reaching the national level.
She has received a number of military honors since her death. They are:
Other honors she has received:
- The Iraq Liberation Medal.
- 82nd Air Borne Special Citation.
- The Army Good Conduct Medal.
- The Army Commendation Medal.
- Posthumous Certificate of Promotion to PFC.
- The Purple Fallen Comrade Medal.
- Honored at the Memorial Wall of Dead Hero Soldiers, Alexander, VA.
LaVena Lynn Johnson leaves behind her loving close family. They were:
- Awarded Special Congressional Recognition Resolution for Community Service. Congressman William Lacy Clay, July 27, 2005.
- Acknowledgement by 61st District naming July 27, as LaVena Lynn Johnson Day.
- Awarded Missouri House of Representative Resolution for Community Services, adopted July 28, 2005.
- Missouri House Of Representatives Courtesy Resolution, adopted February 24, 2008, State Representative David Pearce, 121.
To this day LaVena Lynn Johnson is known for having an unlimited source of energy, interest, caring and love. She is sincerely missed by all who knew her and respected by those who have heard of her, but never had the honor of meeting her.
- Her father whom she admired, John H. Johnson, Ph.D.
- Her mother Linda D. Johnson, whom she confided in because they were lovely close.
- Her brother, JayVince, whom she respected because of his calm mannerism.
- Her brother, Jermaine, whose fire and fight she liked.
- Her baby sister, LaKesha because of their closeness and her ability to be resourceful.
- Her aunt, LaVerne Carter, who always sat an example for all to follow.
I encourage all Villagers to share information about LaVena Johnson with those who may not yet know. We need to bring justice for this young heroine!