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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories. And today we have a story of friendship from a former Marine, Jason Porter. Here's Jason with a story of his best friend, Forrest Johnson, a.k.a.
Fari. I used to go to breakfast several times a week right over here at the Red Hot Inn, and he was always there every single day at a certain time. And he sat by himself and he had a hat on and it said 95th Infantry on it.
And it had a, you know, you see veterans wear pins and stuff on their hat, but he had a combat infantryman's badge on his pin. And I knew he was a World War Two veteran. And I observed him for several weeks or months, never talked to him. And finally, I'm like, I gotta go talk to this guy.
We spent a ton of time just talking, drinking coffee. And through that, he brought me to the veterans group. And this veterans group was very unique when I got there because I was by far the youngest guy there. Most of them were all World War Two veterans.
I'm actually seeing guys here at this group, like you would read about just incredible events that you would see on the History Channel or study about. These guys were actually there. So I met guys who actually landed at Iwo Jima, who actually parachuted in on Normandy on D-Day. There was a guy who was on the USS Indianapolis. I met guys who unlocked the gates at Dachau.
Like, these are the kind of guys I got to meet there. And they talked among veterans, among friends, among peers, unvarnished. And these guys are really the greatest generation, my heroes.
I really looked up to these guys. When people look at Europe, everybody thinks of D-Day. Well, D-Day was like, that was the very, very beginning of the campaign. When D-Day happened, there was about four or five or six divisions that landed on the beach that day. The 95th is actually known for the campaign in Metz. Leading up to that campaign, that's where Forey and his unit, you know, they were decimated there really. So they formed in 1942. They trained and lived together 24-7, 365 for approximately two years. They're the plank owners.
They're the first original organic group of guys that come together to form this division. And once they deploy into France and they deploy into the battlefield, those outfits get consumed by casualties in the battle. So he joined in 42 and he deployed to France with Patton's Third Army in the 95th Infantry and left the battlefield on November 10, 1944. In the assault in Ammonville, Forey talked about a guy was shooting at him, a sniper was shooting at him, and he took a rifle grenade. And a rifle grenade, you put it in the end of the barrel of your rifle and he shot and it went up in the top of a barn and he got the guy that was shooting at him.
They continue the assault and Forey went to cross a road, like a platoon is on one side, the other guy's on the other side. And have you ever heard of a German 88? So it's designed to shoot planes out of the sky at tens of thousands of feet.
Well, the Germans actually then employed them as anti-tank and then anti-personnel. And the thing that makes this thing so incredible was the velocity of the round. So, Forey and his guys, they're moving up the street and Forey at some point had to cross the street and there's a German 88, like two miles away, has the street just dialed in. And a German 88 hits the side Forey, so it shoots down the road and blows up and just blows into a cone. So, had Forey been completely in that impact zone, I mean, he wouldn't have been alive.
I would have never been friends with him. But he's just on the fringe of it and it catches his side. It blows a bunch of his gear off.
His leg and hip is just destroyed, blown apart. And he talked about praying at that point. And he said he knew that God had comforted him and he knew he was going to live to see his son. How he knew that, I don't know.
But that was his testimony. A couple of his guys run across the road, snatch him up. The German 88 continues the fire.
The German infantry is maneuvering on them in a counterattack. So, they scoop him up. They run him to the back, to basically the other side of a building or a courtyard. Another guy grabs him, but they throw him on the hood of a Jeep, not strapped down or anything. The Jeep takes off across the potato field, full bore. Well, guess what's happening to the Jeep?
The Jeep is being fired upon. And as Forey's trying to hang on, he's blown apart. They go across the potato field up over the hill. The guys never see him again.
That's it. It's like what happened to Forrest Johnson. So, after Forey was wounded and evacuated off the battlefield on 10 November 1944 from Ammonville, France, he went into the hospital, recovery, came home. He tried to pick up his life when he got home. He had a son and his son had lived with his grandparents, which would have been Forey's mom and dad. So, as when Forey came home, he tried to connect with his son. Well, his son didn't really see him as dad because he'd been gone after the hospital recovery and whatnot and all the time in service. He'd been gone nearly four years. So, the boy saw grandpa as the father figure.
So, that was a real struggle and then just struggling to being back. But one of the absolute highlights of his life, which he talked about often, like this was like one of his best memories of his life, was the 95th Infantry Division reunion, 1950. So, this would have been five years after the war.
They had it in Chicago and somehow Forey found out about it. So, they haven't talked since 10 November 1944. Here comes the reunion in 1950. Forey shows up in the afternoon, maybe a day late.
I don't know. But he walks into the hotel in Chicago and he sees a whole bunch of his friends. And what a story we're hearing, folks. And when we come back, we're going to find out what happens when the 50th reunion celebration of the 95th Infantry.
Well, when all those guys meet the guy they hadn't seen since 10 November 1944. The story of Forey Johnson continues here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
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Listen to Echoes of History, Assassins vs Templars on iHeart, or wherever you get your podcasts. And we return to Our American Stories and Jason Porter, telling us the story of his friend and hero, World War II veteran, Fari Johnson. Jason picks up the story in 1950 as Fari walks into a reunion full of his old buddies, men who thought that Fari was killed in action, fighting Nazis back in 1944. Fari walks up behind him and says, what kind of clown outfit is you guys around here?
He gives some disparaging remarks and those guys turn around like they are just gonna belt somebody. And they turn around and see Fari Johnson, the guy that they'd seen get blown up. He described how they just hugged him and it was just an incredible, incredible reunion.
So they were there four days and they went on a bender, talked about, you know, things that happened on the battlefield after Fari was hit, who survived, who didn't survive. So one of the things that they did is they had a gigantic Nazi flag. If you've seen the giant red flag with a big white background with a swastika in the middle of it.
They had a huge one of them that they pulled off of Gestapo headquarters in Ham, Germany. Somebody brought this flag out and over the course of the reunion that was held at this hotel, all the surviving members of his company signed that flag. So when I met Fari, 60 years later, as members of his company began to dwindle over the time that flag, each guy would have it for a while and they'd maybe give a talk at a VFW post, a elementary school, stuff like that. So when I met Fari, he had the flag. It was his turn to have the flag. And every now and then he busted out and we'd look at it.
We'd look at the names on it. One time we tried to call a couple of the guys on the flag. You know, this is kind of pre-Facebook and stuff. It was a little harder to find guys. So every year Fari would invite me to go to the division reunion.
Well, then the division reunion, it got to there was just nobody there. 2012, I talked to Fari. I said, Fari, that flag really needs to be in a museum. He's like, well, it's not my flag. I can't give it away.
Okay. Well, I'm not pushing them or anything, but I'm like, I don't really want to just see it stuffed under a bed or something. Like when you're gone, it should go somewhere as it means something. So he agreed to bring it to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. And at this time, there was three guys from his company that were still alive. I set up a meeting with the curator at the museum. I'm like, hey, these veterans are coming in. They have this flag. I told them the background of the flag.
You know, they want to pass it off to you. So I pack up Fari Johnson, bring him on flight. He's in a wheelchair. I'm pushing them all through security.
You know, it's quite a chore to get them down there. Once we get down there, Hal Smith and his wife, they roll in, I think, on a motorhome. And the other guy, I can't remember, he comes in and they're just hanging out and talking and they have the flag.
And the next day at noon or one o'clock, we're going to turn the flag over to the museum, right? So I sit back and I just basically serve these guys, bring them sandwiches, bring them drinks. And they're just, they're talking about the war, their life. You know, they're old men, but they're talking like they're 22. And they are, although 65 some years had passed, they are still brothers.
They're bonded by their time and service and what they did together. So the time is approaching. I'm like, all right, guys, you know, hey, it's 11 o'clock at one o'clock.
We got to be at the museum. Right, guys? Like, oh, yeah, yeah, good, good. Get us another beer. I'm like, all right. And it gets down to one hour. And I'm like, all right, guys, in an hour, you know, we need to start pack up and go. And the museum is ready to receive us. And I'm like, all right, guys, half hour, you know, let's wrap it up.
And I don't remember which one I want to say it was for. He turned around. He's like, tell them we're not coming.
We'll decide next year. The guys didn't want to break up the meeting. They didn't want to give up the flag because that gave them a reason to see each other again. Because if they gave up the flag, they didn't have an excuse to meet up the next year. There was no next year because by that time next year, they were all gone. And Forry was the last man to have the flag.
And he was the last one from that unit. I don't know what happened to the flag now. He wanted something meaningful to happen with it. So maybe it is in the museum.
I don't know. I was sitting right next to him. The last time that I spoke with him, he kept it in a briefcase right next to his chair. And I visited with him seven or eight days before he died. And it was sitting there. Forry Johnson lived several blocks from church where my wife and I attended church. And I would go down the road and visit Forry, have coffee, have breakfast. And one day I walked up to his house.
The screen door was open. He had his breakfast in front of him. And he was in the middle of praying. And he was praying out loud. So I just kind of paused.
I didn't want to barge in on him or interrupt him. And I couldn't help but overhear in him a little bit. And it was amazing to hear him.
Just simple prayers of an elderly man talking to God. And he thanked God for saving his life in World War II. His little boy that was four or five years old came back. He later died when he was very, very young. And he talked about wanting to see his son. He talked about his surviving children and wanting them to know God and know Christ. And the line I always remember is like, help me do good stuff and not bad stuff. Amen. And I paused for a minute and I walked in and said, hey, Jason, how you doing? Get the coffee, this and that.
So after the New Orleans handing off the flag incident, where we didn't actually hand off the flag, I believe it was the following summer. I get a random phone call. It's a voicemail from Forey. It said, hey, why don't you and Valerie come over? Bring the kids. Bring your swim trunks. We're going to have a party. And it's on Tuesday afternoon at four.
You know, who has a party at four in the afternoon on Tuesday? Well, Forey did. And he's like, I want to see you guys. I'm getting down to the end, you know, and I want to see you. And then he just abruptly hung up the phone. And I wrote he lived he lived at a T intersection. I rolled up there on Tuesday afternoon at four. And I'm not kidding you. There was cars lining the street, both sides of the street, all three directions for two blocks at this guy's house.
Ninety some year old man. It was his kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids, all of his friends that he worked with at GM, all of his guys that were still alive from the veterans group. It was absolutely packed.
You almost needed, you know, traffic control there. I couldn't believe it. And I was I was so happy. And he was very happy. And one of the things he said was we were sitting around talking. He's like, hey, why does everybody wait for the funeral to do this?
And I think he kind of knew that was in August and then he died January 1st. It was just so, so wonderful to see all those people turn out for him. It's just a real privilege to know to know him. It's like him and all of his peer group were my heroes. And getting to spend that time was valuable because, you know, when I met all those guys in the early 2000s, you know, 10 years later, they're not around. We don't get to hear their voices anymore.
We get to read it off a page. You know, he certainly wasn't a perfect guy or anything, but he was very, very genuine. And he was my best friend. You know, although we were 50 some years separated, he was my best friend for a long time. And I miss him. And you've been listening to Jason Porter talking about his friend, Fari Johnson. And Jason made an important decision that one day when he decided not to just say hello and move on to that old guy sitting there with a hat that indicated he fought in World War II. He got to know him. We should all do that, by the way, with soldiers and just strangers, because that person could end up being your best friend and you can end up learning a whole lot about life from them. And I keep thinking about those simple prayers of an elderly man.
God help me do good stuff and not bad stuff. And a special thanks to Shiloh Carozza, who is a Hillsdale graduate and does special work for us, bringing us stories like these, just beautiful stories. Fari Johnson's story, in a way, Jason Porter's too, here on Our American Stories. With so many streaming devices out there today, what sets Roku apart? Find the perfect Roku player for you today at Roku.com.
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