BILLINGS – A sergeant killed this week in Afghanistan was described Thursday as a country boy from a cattle ranch who grew up to become “the perfect Marine” and a loving father to two children.
Trevor J. Johnson, 23, was a fifth-generation rancher who grew up south of Forsyth near Colstrip. He was killed Tuesday in an explosion in Helmand province.
His parents, Colleen and Thomas Johnson, said their son was leading a foot patrol charged with clearing a route of explosives when he was struck by the blast from an improvised explosive device.
They said their son, who joined the Marines right out of high school, routinely took the point position on patrols during his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was never about him. It was always about the guys in the unit with him,” Colleen Johnson said.
A second Marine from Camp Lejeune, Sgt. David Wallace of Sharpsville, PA, also was killed Tuesday. Wallace’s mother said her son was killed in an explosion, but it was unclear if the two deaths were related.
A Marine spokesman, Lt. Philip Klay, said no additional details were available.
Johnson was an engineer with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He is survived by his wife, Nicole, a 3-year-old stepson, Landan, and the couple’s 8-month-old daughter, Aspyn.
“He was such a great dad, and just before he deployed he made sure there was new playset out in the backyard for his two kids,” Colleen Johnson said.
Johnson’s fellow Marines had nicknamed him “Hollywood,” in part because he had been called up on stage during a USO show in Iraq that featured the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, his mother said.
Johnson’s grandfathers had both served in the military, and he decided he would follow in their footsteps while still a young boy, his parents said.
That future was sealed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, his father said. After that day, Thomas Johnson said his son adopted a personal slogan: “I can defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
When he was a junior at Colstrip High School, his parents took Johnson to visit at least seven universities and vocational programs, hoping he would pick a different path. But they said their son was insistent and joined the Marines within months of graduating.
Terry Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and friend of the Johnsons who owns a hardware store in Colstrip, had counseled Trevor on life in the military before the 18-year-old was shipped off to boot camp.
“He was, in my opinion, the perfect Marine,” Taylor said. “He had the chiseled good looks, he had the athletic ability, he had the intelligence, he had the courage and he had the heart to do it … But he was still Trevor Johnson, a country boy from Rosebud County.”
Johnson was promoted to sergeant at age 20 and received numerous awards for his service and conduct. He had planned to enroll at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall to seek an engineering degree, and then return to the military, his mother said.
Johnson was the 34th service member from Montana to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the office of Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
A memorial service is planned in Colstrip, his father said.
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