Mesa resident Bill Johnson wrote to a Marine colonel earlier this year with just one request: Take care of his only living son, who was deployed to prepare for the war with Iraq.
The letter was answered — with a pledge to do just that.
Johnson is a Vietnam War veteran who now works in the veterans’ office at Mesa Community College. About six weeks ago, his son, Sgt. Wesley L. Johnson, left for the Middle East.
Bill Johnson told the colonel that Wesley is his only surviving son. In February 2002, his older son, Andre, died from a heart attack at age 29. He also has a daughter.
On March 7, Col. R.J. Knapp of the 1 st Marine Division wrote back.
"Please accept my belated sympathy on the loss of your son," Knapp wrote in regard to Johnson’s older son.
Knapp told Johnson that Wesley, 28, was assigned to a communications company and would not be directly involved with combat, and that since Johnson’s other son was not killed in military action Wesley did not qualify for sole surviving son status.
He said, "Wesley’s skills and contributions as a (maintenance) specialist are vitally important to the success of his unit. I believe that his presence in (this) country is necessary to mission accomplishment."
Then, Knapp gave his pledge.
"I will do everything in my power to ensure Wesley’s well-being and safe return," he wrote.
It was reassurance a father needed.
"It made me feel good. I understand how that works," Johnson said. "In the military if someone tells you they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it."
To support the troops, Johnson is helping gather care package items at MCC.