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Douglas County bridge memorializes Vietnam veteran
by Bill Baldowski
June 25, 2014 11:26 AM | 1220 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha H. Shal
From left, Shemeka Vinson, Janice Johnson and Willie James Johnson stand near the bridge in Douglasville dedicated to Willie’s brother, Melvin Johnson, who was the first Douglas County African American soldier killed in the Vietnam War in 1969.
Staff / Samantha H. Shal From left, Shemeka Vinson, Janice Johnson and Willie James Johnson stand near the bridge in Douglasville dedicated to Willie’s brother, Melvin Johnson, who was the first Douglas County African American soldier killed in the Vietnam War in 1969.
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It took 45 years but Willie Johnson said he is overjoyed the memory of his brother is finally being honored as he always felt it should be.

Earlier this month, District 35 State Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, dedicated the bridge on Ga. Hwy. 166, which spans Anneewakee Creek, in honor of Johnson’s younger brother, Army Pfc. Melvin Johnson, who was killed in action in Vietnam May 9, 1969, shortly after his 20th birthday.

Johnson was the first African American Douglas County resident killed in the Vietnam conflict.

According to Georgia Senate spokesman Adam Sweat, James worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation to introduce a resolution in the Senate this past session which passed unanimously to name the bridge in memory of Johnson.

Sweat said the sign was erected without any cost to the family.

According to David Spear of GDOT, the two dedication signs on the bridge, one facing in each traffic direction, cost about $200 each.

He said GDOT paid for the signs with funds from the state gas tax revenue.

James, who was joined by members of Johnson’s family at the ceremony, said the soldier made the ultimate sacrifice for his country during that conflict.

“At only 20 years old, he lost his life defending our American values and the freedoms we hold so dear to our hearts,” she said.

James said it had been an honor to work with the Johnson family, “to memorialize Johnson’s memory so that those who travel through Douglas County are reminded of his unyielding commitment to these United States.”

What made losing his brother in Vietnam even more traumatic, Johnson said, was that, after being officially notified of Johnson’s death by the Army, his family found out that he was killed by friendly fire.

“It has been 45 years since Melvin’s death but I can remember our being notified by the Army of his death like it was yesterday,” Johnson said, adding he still thinks of his brother almost daily.

Johnson is buried at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Lower River Road in Douglasville, which is near the bridge that now bears his name.

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